Fireside 2.1 ( Screeners Podcast Blog Sun, 16 Feb 2020 10:00:00 -0500 Screeners Podcast Blog en-us Chad’s Top Ten Movies of 2019 Sun, 16 Feb 2020 10:00:00 -0500 ba4a649f-4b10-46c6-bd08-bcfa48a03463 Chad breaks down his top 10 films of 2019 and more. By Chad Guyton

To listen to The Screeners talk indepth about their favorite films of 2019, check out our Top 10 of 2019 Episode.
Already a fan of The Screeners Podcast? Help us reach new listeners by leaving us a review and rating on iTunes.


Upon first viewing, LuLu Wang's second feature can feel contained and possibly even distant. Still, the more I thought about this film, the more my appreciation for its construction turned into an emotional connection for this story based on "a true lie." The ensemble cast is excellent with Shuzhen Zhao and Awkwafina turning in award-worthy performances. Funny and moving, the message at the heart of The Farewell is universal.

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I understand why some people don't like Once Upon a Hollywood. It's 2.5 hours long, it feels light on plot, and the end is polarizing. Still, Tarantino's 9th film is his most mature and nuanced work. More than just a "hang out" movie, Once Upon a Hollywood is a paean to the Golden Days of Tinseltown. The writing is sharp, the performances brilliant (especially Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate), and multiple viewings will reward those willing to explore the layered themes.

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The Russo brothers pulled off a seemingly impossible feat with Avengers: Endgame. Somehow they created a satisfying conclusion to over 20 Marvel films and did so with a three-hour run time that never felt long. The opening tone is an homage to The Leftovers (one of the best TV shows off all time, kids), and the way they handled the ending of the mildly disappointing Avengers: Infinity War brought a sense of peril and stakes to Endgame. Thanos remains one of the best developed and intriguing villains in comic-book film history, and the ending battle was epic in the most genuine sense of the word. Endgame's one fault is that the emotional arc can't reach its full potential without watching many of the previous Marvel movies. That said, for those who are invested in the expanded universe, Endgame is fantastic.

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Dolemite is my Name is raunchy, irreverent, and wonderful. Eddie Murphy is a force as real-life legend Rudy Ray Moore, a comedy and rap pioneer, who wouldn't allow his dream to die. Dolemite is a movie about comedy that is legitimately hilarious in its own right. A stellar ensemble (with a standout performance from Da'Vine Joy Randolph) lifts what could have been a standard underdog story to something greater. This is a film about people chasing their passion and coming together to MAKE something just for the joy of making it. It's a love letter to filmmaking, the creative process, and what it is to be a family. I loved this movie.

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While I can't say that I "liked" this film, neither can I deny the intense experience that is Joker. The emotional impact and intellectual whirlwind this caused were unlike any movie I saw in 2019. Provocative and dark, Joker asks the audience to consider the costs of violence by employing that very thing to keep you watching. It considers mental illness, apathy for the unseen, societal anger through the lens of a "comic book villain" origin story to significant effect. The cinematography is breathtaking, and Joaquin Phoenix's performance carries the weight of the entire film. The subtext of "deserving" violence combined with an unreliable narrator (is it really in his head?) ultimately undermines the film. However, I still can't shake Joker several months after my first viewing, and I'm always appreciative of art that forces me to grapple with its ideas.

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5. APOLLO 11

I'm not sure what the Academy has against nominating some of the best documentaries of the year, but 2019 marks consecutive snubs for Won't You be my Neighbor and now Apollo 11. Eschewing traditional documentary filmmaking techniques, Todd Miller is somehow able to piece together an inspiring and joyous story from newly discovered archival footage of the Apollo 11 mission. The absence of interviews, b-roll coverage, and reenactments create an immersive and exhilarating experience. I was moved to tears by the imagery of our majestic universe and wanted to audibly cheer when the crew's courage and determination took us to the moon. Seeing this in IMAX is something I will never forget.

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I'm not sure how a film like Jojo Rabbit got made, but in an age where satire is misused and underappreciated, I'm happy to report that not only does it work, it's wholly unique and delightful. Taika Waititi's remarkable script has expertly balanced a sense of absurd comedy and silliness with unthinkable real-life horror. Roman Griffin Davis gives a stellar performance, and his dinner scene with Scarlett Johansson is a masterclass in acting. Earnest, charming, and poignant, Jojo Rabbit is ultimately a celebration of life, and it earns that dance.

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It was difficult for me to get excited about another adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic story, Little Women, and I was uncertain why Greta Gerwig would choose this project as her follow up to Ladybird. After the first 30 minutes of the film, it became clear that this would become the defining adaptation of Alcott's work and that Gerwig's point of view would bring a fresh perspective to the challenges faced by the March sisters while honoring the original story. The nonsequential approach brings a new sense of importance to several thematic elements and also results in more complete character arcs for each sister. The ensemble is outstanding, and the result is a film that is passionate, warm, and fierce. Little Women was one of my happiest theatrical surprises of 2019.

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2. 1917

The technical mastery on display in 1917 is hard to believe. Roger Deakins won his second Oscar for cinematography, and even that lofty recognition fails to convey how stunning the work behind the camera is. Still, after a few short minutes, the craft fell away, and I was drawn into the harrowing story of two men journeying across a treacherous landscape to try and save the lives of their fellow soldiers. I've read complaints from critics who compare the first-person nature of the filmmaking to videogames, and while I see where that comparison comes from, I think it's a lazy critique. In a video game, the player has agency and control of whatever character they are playing. In 1917, we are told a story from a specific point of view that becomes fully immersive to the viewer. The first half is taut and horrific; the second half has a hint of Dante's Inferno with an otherworldly, if not metaphorical take on the character's trip through hell. I was overwhelmed by this movie, and it deserves to be watched on the largest screen possible.

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Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story is heartbreaking, authentic, agonizing, and ultimately, hopeful. As a child of parents who divorced, I admit that this subject is deeply personal for me. Still, it's my number one film of 2019 because it is masterfully written, and showcases the best ensemble acting performances of the year (sorry Parasite). Never has a film so accurately depicted the tiny mundane injuries inflicted at the end of a marriage or the unintentional use of children as leverage in the machine that is the divorce industry. Its refusal to take a side allows us to empathize with both characters as we yearn for them to talk to each other and rediscover what initially brought them together. It's also funny. Really funny. As in real relationships, the horrible and hilarious coexist, and Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson embody that sentiment perfectly.

It is also littered with brilliant moments that are unforgettable:

  • The opening scene describing their love for each other
  • Her response after "one last note."
  • Bedtime Story
  • Merrit Wever serving papers
  • The fight scene
  • Being Alive
  • The letter scene

Marriage Story isn't emotionally manipulative like films about dying dogs or young adult cancer romances. Its crushing power lies in the way it respectfully treats both parties and treats them as real humans who love their child and, at the end of it all, each other. It is the best film of 2019.

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Honorable Mentions

Peanut Butter Falcon
The Irishman
Knives Out
Ford V Ferrari
Ad Astra


Most Disappointing - The Rise of Skywalker
Movie I liked that critics didn’t - Brightburn
Movie I didn’t like that critics did - Us
Biggest Surprise - Shazam

Chad's Top Ten Movies of 2018 Sat, 16 Feb 2019 08:00:00 -0500 fc3eeca9-5808-4726-a571-893c67a59c52 Screeners Co-Host, Chad Guyton, lists his favorite films of 2018. By Chad Guyton

To listen to The Screeners talk about their favorite films of 2018, check out our Top Ten of 2018 Episode. Already a fan of The Screeners Podcast? Help us reach new listeners by leaving us a review and rating on iTunes.


Yorgos Lanthimos has crafted a darkly funny tale of suspicion, betrayal, and ambition. While this may be his most accessible film to date, his unique point of view still permeates every frame of The Favourite. The cast is universally excellent, and Olivia Colman's Queen Anne is among the best performances I saw in 2018.

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A Quiet Place was one of my best theatrical experiences of 2018. First time director, John Krasinski, does a masterful job using silence to enhance the narrative arc and create a hovering sense of dread. Millicent Simmonds stands out among a strong ensemble, and Krasinki's world building lays a foundation for a return to this universe.

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This passion project, written by and starring Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal is the epitome of artistic intelligence. Hilarious, heartfelt, frantic, and piercing, Blindspotting explores multiple social issues through the lens of a transforming friendship. The risky spoken word segment near the end not only works but elevates the film with a ferocious and emotional gut punch.

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Twenty years from now we will look back at Alex Garland's Annihilation and appreciate it for what it is: a sci-fi masterpiece. The feeling of something being slightly "off" tightens into a palpable sense of dread and mystery. Beautiful terror best describes the experience of watching this film, and the ambiguous ending will be the source of discussion and think pieces for years to come.

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The most visually sumptuous and romantic film of the year, If Beale Street Could Talk is at once heartbreaking and hopeful. Barry Jenkins' follow-up to the Oscar-winning Moonlight is bright and textured and features an evocative score from Nicholas Britell (my favorite of 2018). Don't let the unexplainable lack of awards recognition keep you from seeing this beautiful film.

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Debra Granik's exploration of PTSD and homelessness avoids the traps of sentimentality and instead gives us a subtle inside view of a father and daughter trying to survive and redefine what family really means. Thomasin McKenzie and Ben Foster give naturalistic but affecting performances as two people who can't bear to be apart but clearly need to be. Brutal but honest, Leave No Trace is that rare film that stays with you long after you leave the cinema.

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was my biggest cinematic surprise in 2018. It's been said that certain movies are like watching a comic book come to life, but this film may be the first to actually do it. Utilizing cutting edge animation techniques, Spider-Verse crackles with an energy and vibrancy that is impossible to resist. Combine that with an inspiring central theme, intricate story structure, and exhilarating set pieces, you get not only the best animated film of the year but one of the best films of the year, period.

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3. The Rider

It's hard to believe that this is only Chloé Zhao's second feature film. She wrote and directed The Rider using non-actors, their real family members and friends, working from a story based loosely on the real-life experiences of her cast. In the wrong hands, it could have been a disaster, but Zhao expertly blurs the line between documentary realism and the cinematic poetry of the Dakotan landscape and the people who inhabit it. Real life rider, Brady Jandreau is a star in the making and by the end of this film, I wept over his struggle to find purpose after losing the one thing he felt he was born to do.

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2. First Man

I'll never understand how First Man isn't nominated for multiple above the line Academy Awards. Damien Chazelle has crafted an authentic look at the daily sacrifices made by NASA families and the unbearable toll it takes on each of them. Never has a film so accurately and thrillingly captured the terror of early space flight and First Man is packed with aviation sequences that are unlike anything seen in a movie. The film's refusal to glamorize the race to the moon is precisely what makes this movie connect on an emotional level. While Damien Chazelle's first three films explore different genres and tones, one thing they have in common is that they are all borderline masterpiece level films (and Whiplash I consider a masterpiece) and he's already become one of the best working directors in Hollywood.

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1. A Star is Born

The first 80 minutes of A Star is Born is perfect. Literally perfect; The direction, performances, cinematography, script, and music. My goodness, the music. And while there were some minor issues with the last third of the film, my overall experience with A Star is Born is one of joy, inspiration, heartbreak, and awe. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga give the two best performances of the year, and while Gaga is a revelation, Cooper's turn is his most nuanced to date. Sam Elliot is sublime as the older brother trying to keep things together against the backdrop of his own insecurities, and the cinematography by Matthew Libatique is vibrant and employs a flowing camera that makes the musical performances come to life. The coda of this movie is flawless, and, unlike many of this year's Best Picture nominees, A Star is Born will have an enduring legacy. This is the best film in 2018.

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Honorable Mentions

Eighth Grade

Favorite Documentaries

Free Solo
Won't You be my Neighbor

Rampage - Daniel's Review Fri, 13 Apr 2018 10:00:00 -0400 c8a78cc0-c6ca-48d0-84ea-cc405fa9194c Daniel Reviews Dwayne Johnson's latest big-budget action adventure, Rampage! We know he loved San Andreas, so will that love carry over to this film? Check out the review. By Daniel Howat

Final Score: 4/10


After surviving catastrophic destruction in 2015’s “San Andreas,” Dwayne Johnson reunites with director Brad Peyton to survive more catastrophic destruction in “Rampage.” This new film is loosely based on the arcade game of the same name, in which gigantic monsters try to destroy a city while outrunning the military. That’s a pretty simple premise. Let’s give credit where it’s due: this film delivers plenty of monsters destroying cities.

The film opens with a horror-movie-esque scene in a space station where something just escaped. As the only living astronaut attempts to flee in an escape pod, she doesn’t make it, instead sending genetic experiments crashing back to Earth. One of these samples lands in the San Diego Wildlife Center. Johnson plays Davis Okoye, a primatologist at the center who is best friends with a very rare albino silverback gorilla named George. Naturally, George discovers this genetic sample and begins to grow, and fast. As George, and other mutated animals, become dangerous, Okoye seems to be the only man who can stop them.

Disaster movies can be great. I was a fan of “San Andreas,” which I found to be fun and somewhat thrilling, despite being a really light film. A great deal of that enjoyment comes from, yes, mindlessly watching cities destroyed. Big explosions and crazy setpieces can be visceral. But lots of movies have those things. A good disaster movie will also feel ever-so-slightly real. Maybe this could really happen if things went really wrong. The Day After Tomorrow, San Andreas, heck, even Armageddon felt like it had just a hint of reality in there somewhere.

But alas. Here we have a giant gorilla teaming up with a winged wolf-porcupine to fulfill their goal of destroying a building in Chicago. And then a crocodile-fish-dinosaur joins the fun. And for some reason, The Rock is there too.


I can accept a story that nonsense as long as it’s interesting, unique, or memorable. This is none of those things. “Rampage” has nothing more to offer than destruction. The characters are cliche and poorly drawn. The villainous plot is silly and boring. The climax of the film, while filled with spectacle, is laughable in execution.

Johnson is one of the most charismatic and charming people in Hollywood, but here we’re told he’s not much of a “people person.” He supposedly doesn’t get along with humans, rather preferring animals because “they get me. You always know where you stand.” He’s a good actor, but he unfortunately can’t hide his likable personality. Our villains, played by Malin Åkerman and Jake Lacey, are truly boring. They mostly stay in one single room for the film looking at screens and explaining to the audience why they’re evil. Within the first thirty seconds of their first scene, Lacey literally says their genetic experiments “weren’t exactly for the benefit of humanity.” It’s all bland and forgettable.

Don’t misunderstand me either: this film isn’t horrible. It’s simply empty. This a film in which you can shut your brain down and enjoy explosions. I have to admit that there’s something enthralling about watching a giant gorilla and wolf strategically demolish a city while throwing tanks at helicopters and smashing through buildings. It helps that the visual effects are mostly well executed as well. Visual effects companies have really seemed to nail animating monkeys for some reason.

If chaos and destruction are enough to capture your attention for an hour and 47 minutes, and if you love Dwayne Johnson as much as the rest of the world, you can do worse than “Rampage.” If you’re hoping for an interesting story along with that chaos, you’ll be sorely disappointed. While the film held my attention just fine, this is a movie I won’t remember in a month.

Ready Player One - Daniel's Review Thu, 29 Mar 2018 03:00:00 -0400 74d88633-9300-41e2-8c1d-c46bdec7d9dd Daniel reviews Steven Spielberg's pop culture extravaganza Ready Player One. By Daniel Howat

Final Score - 8/10

Ready Player One

“People come to the Oasis for all the things they can do, but they stay for all the things they can be.”

Steven Spielberg built his career on fun and fantastical adventures, full of excitement, grandeur, and heart. Ready Player One returns to that classic Spielbergian sense of adventure along with spectacular visuals and non-stop pop culture callouts.

This adaptation of Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel takes place in 2045 where a virtual reality world called the Oasis provides an escape from the decaying real world. Here you can do anything, and be anyone. Within the Oasis there also lies an elaborate Easter Egg hunt created by the game’s founder, James Halliday (Mark Rylance). The prize: ownership of the Oasis.

Tye Sheridan stars as Wade Watts, better known by his in-game avatar Parzival, aims to be the winner of this challenge, despite his humble background as a poor kid in the “stacks” of Columbus, Ohio. Armed with his comprehensive knowledge of pop culture and Halliday himself, Wade seems to have a fighting chance. He’s aided by Art3mis (Oliva Cooke), Aech (Lena Waithe), Daito (Win Morisaki), and Sho (Phillip Zhao).

There’s plenty to say about the film, but it’s one thing above all else: fun. It's a both a throwback to classic Spielberg adventures and a burst of new and innovative imagery. This film is a non-stop blast from beginning to end. An opening car race through the ever-changing streets of New York featuring obstacles like a Tyrannosaurus Rex and King Kong is exhilarating. Oh, and Parzival is racing in a Delorean.

If that last paragraph annoys you, this movie isn’t for you. Ready Player One is over-the-top, sometimes overloading the senses. Though it comes dangerously close, it’s never too much. The film keeps itself grounded in our main quest the whole time. It’s a search for a prize, yes. But it’s also an exploration of history, and what it means to really be present in the life you’re living. The themes aren’t executed as strongly as the action, but there’s still enough heart to balance out the insanity inside the Oasis.

Ready Player One 2

Of course, the best part of the film is the abundance of pop culture references. It would take hours, if not days, to uncover every reference and nod. Though there are too many to count, it feels natural in this world, never just cheap winks at the audience. The creator had a deep love for pop culture and expressed it in this world.

Rylance gives a stunning though brief performance as Halliday, full of awkwardness and a quiet oddness. It’s subtle and gentle, which grabs your attention in such a loud and wild film. Ben Mendelsohn also shines as Nolan Sorrento, the evil CEO who wants control of the Oasis. T.J. Miller appears in a voice-only role, making this his first appearance since sexual assault allegations surfaced against him. It's curious that Spielberg didn't choose to recast the role, which would have been a seemingly easy task.

If not for the utterly stunning visual effects inside the Oasis, this film would fall apart. Long takes and elaborate action sequences go off without ever feeling false. It helps that the Oasis doesn’t have to look photo-realistic. It’s still a game after all. Some of the most stunning effects work takes place inside the movie The Shining. The way Spielberg was able to merge these two films together was unbelievable.

More than anything, Ready Player One is an exhilarating adventure. It feels like a classic Spielberg film, right down to the spunky kids outrunning the corporate bad guys. It’s full of wonder, excitement, and nostalgia. It may not have tapped into the deep dark themes that are possible with a film about virtual reality, but it doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day, this is a popcorn film. And it’s just about the most fun I’ve had at the movies in a very long time.

Analyzing The 2018 Oscars: Part 3 of 3 Wed, 28 Feb 2018 11:00:00 -0500 907af08a-91d2-430a-9641-bd64c31bca70 In the third and final part of our Oscars analysis, Daniel predicts who will win in the big six categories and why. He talks about Best Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Actor, Actress, Director, and Best Picture. Check it out! By Daniel Howat

Our final Oscars analysis is HERE, and it’s a big one. We’ve already broken down the technical categories and the shorts, features, and screenplays. Now it’s time to hit the big six categories: Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Picture. Most of these categories are pretty much locked up, so it won’t take too much time to break them down. Except for Best Picture. It’s going to take a lot to figure out the winner there. Settle in.

Sam Rockwell Three Billboards


Even as Best Picture is the toughest race to predict in a great many years, all four acting categories are the most predictable they’ve been ever. Never before have the same people won BAFTA, Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe, and SAG in all four acting categories. Statistically speaking, anyone else winning in any of the acting categories would be completely unprecedented.

In Best Supporting Actor, there has never been an instance of someone winning all four of those precursors and losing the Oscar. Sam Rockwell has won all of the precursors. Only one person has ever won the Oscar without winning any of the precursors, and that was James Coburn in 1998. Though Willem Dafoe got lots of attention from the critics, it’s looking just about impossible for him to defeat Rockwell. It would be crazy to predict anyone else.

Will Win: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Threat: Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project

Should Win: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Allison Janney I, Tonya


Exactly like with Best Supporting Actor, Allison Janney won BAFTA, Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe, and SAG. She’s statistically unstoppable. No actress has ever won all four of those and lost the Oscar. Just like Dafoe, Laurie Metcalf did very well in the critics' awards but lost all of the main four precursors. Can she upset Janney? It’s unlikely. The only person to win the Oscar without winning any of those four awards was Marcia Gay Harden in 2000.

Moving away from statistics for a minute, let’s talk about the chance of an upset here. With all four acting categories, it feels too easy. Despite the statistics telling us otherwise, can anyone upset one of these frontrunners? Best Supporting Actress seems like the only place it could happen, though still highly unlikely. Janney is beloved in Hollywood, as evidenced by her eleven Emmy nominations and six wins. This is her first Oscar nomination, and Hollywood may jump at the chance to reward her.

That said, Metcalf is beloved as well. She’s been a consistent presence in Hollywood for years, and very well respected. Her performance is a lot more understated than Janney, which some voters might prefer. Again, statistics tell us that Janney is winning this easily, but if you want to predict an upset, this is the spot to do it.

Will Win: Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Threat: Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

Should Win: Laurie Metcalf, I, Tonya

Gary Oldman Darkest Hour


We’ve known this one for almost a year. Gary Oldman’s time has come. This is somehow only his second nomination, and he’ll easily win. He’s won BAFTA, Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe, and SAG. Unlike the supporting categories, there has been one instance in which an actor won all four of those precursors and lost the Oscar. Russell Crowe in 2001 had won all of those awards for A Beautiful Mind and was set to win back-to-back Oscars. He ended up losing to Denzel Washington in Training Day. Many see this as an outlier since Crowe had a highly publicized physical altercation with a producer after the BAFTAs that year. Would he have won if not for that attack? We’ll never know.

Gary Oldman isn’t exactly in the clear from a similar loss. He has some domestic abuse allegations in his past, as well as some anti-semitic comments. In the year of #MeToo, could these allegations cause a surprise upset? It’s possible. Timothée Chalamet has been the hit at every red carpet and talk show. He’s solidly in second place. Still, it doesn’t seem likely he can dethrone Oldman. His allegations have remained pretty quiet all season long. While we saw numerous actors in Hollywood get taken down, including James Franco missing an Oscar nomination, Oldman has stayed afloat. Since nothing’s changed on that front, it’s safe to say Oldman is winning on Sunday.

Will Win: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Threat: Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name

Should Win: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Frances McDormand Three Billboards


This is arguably the most competitive of the four acting categories, but it’s still an easy one to predict. Frances McDormand won BAFTA, Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe, and SAG. She’ll win the Oscar as well.

Early in the season, critics praise was somewhat spread among a few of these actresses. Once the televised awards hit, that all changed. McDormand took all of them. Saoirse Ronan won the comedy Golden Globe, but that’s unlikely to mean anything. Could Sally Hawkins shock us and win if The Shape of Water starts sweeping and wins Best Picture? Maybe, but unlikely. No reason to dig any deeper into it. McDormand is winning.

Will Win: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Threat: Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird

Should Win: Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water

Del Toro Shape of Water


We’re out of the acting categories, but things are still pretty easy to predict. Guillermo del Toro will win for The Shape of Water. He has won BAFTA, Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice, and DGA. The only person to win all four of those and lose the Oscar was Ben Affleck in 2012, but that was an inexplicable year, resulting in him not even being nominated. Del Toro has no real threats.

Could Greta Gerwig win many votes in this year of female empowerment? Will Christopher Nolan get votes for never having won yet? None of these outcomes is likely, so let’s not belabor the point. Del Toro is winning.

Will Win: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Threat: Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk

Should Win: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Get Out Picture


This is the big one. There has never been a more unpredictable Best Picture race. I’ve mostly resigned myself to being wrong here. Out of the nine nominees, we can safely rule out four movies: Phantom Thread, The Post, Call Me By Your Name, and Darkest Hour. There can be a case made for any of the other five nominees winning Best Picture. No matter which film wins, some long-standing statistics will break. Let’s break down those five films and their chances.

There’s not a great chance for Dunkirk to win, but it’s possible. With a preferential ballot, if a film doesn’t get the majority of first-place votes in the first round, the film with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated. Any ballots with an eliminated first place vote will have their second-place film moved to a first-place vote. It’s confusing. But it means that films with lots of second and third place votes could sneak in and win the whole thing.

Dunkirk will benefit from being a film that many people greatly respect. It scored eight nominations, the second most of any film this year. It could easily place number three on a lot of ballots. If voting goes many rounds, Dunkirk could find itself as the surprise winner.

Going against Dunkirk is its lack of screenplay or acting nominations. No film since Grand Hotel in 1932 has won Best Picture without being nominated for its screenplay or acting. That’s a pretty huge hurdle to jump over.

Lady Bird
The case for Lady Bird is largely similar to Dunkirk. Its placement on ballots will be greatly helped by the preferential ballot. Will it be number one on the majority of ballots? Probably not. But it will likely rank high up on plenty of ballots. It has essentially no controversy at all, and it was very well received.

Statistics aren’t in Lady Bird’s favor. It would be the first film since Ordinary People in 1980 to win Best Picture without any technical nominations. There’s a reason this stat is solid. Getting technical nominations shows support for the film across the board across the Academy. It's the same reason you want to see writing or acting nominations. Still, if the voting is split enough a lower ranked film can take the final prize. Additionally, neither Dunkirk nor Lady Bird won a single award from PGA, DGA, or WGA. No film has won Best Picture without a win at one of those guilds since 1989.

Get Out
Yet another film that will benefit from the preferential ballot. Unlike Dunkirk and Lady Bird, though, Get Out benefits from a potential above-the-line win for Best Original Screenplay. Lady Bird will likely lose its acting bids and screenplay. Get Out won the WGA. If Get Out wins Screenplay, it’s chances of winning Best Picture will skyrocket. This is a film that has been in pop culture for a very long time compared to the other films nominated. It’s very well respected, and it’s obviously got a lot to say about race. That will go a long way.

But yet again, statistics don’t favor Get Out. Like Lady Bird, it’s missing any nominations in the technical categories. It also only has four nominations. No film since Cavalcade in 1933 has won Best Picture with fewer than five nominations. Additionally, without winning PGA, DGA, or Best Picture at the BAFTAs or Golden Globes, the cards are certainly stacked against it.

The Shape of Water
If we’re purely talking about statistics, it doesn’t get much better than The Shape of Water. It’s won PGA, which is one of the best predictors to win Best Picture. Wins at DGA and Critics’ Choice help too. With a whopping 13 nominations, it feels like it’s in great shape to win the top prize.

Still, there’s the pesky SAG Ensemble statistic. No film since the first year of the SAG Awards has won Best Picture without first being nominated for Best Ensemble at the SAGs. The only film to do that was Braveheart. It’s an insanely solid statistic. Last year, when La La Land missed the SAG Ensemble nomination, many (including me) predicted this stat would break. As well all know, Moonlight eventually won in the end, keep the statistic alive. The Shape of Water doesn’t have a SAG Ensemble nomination. Get Out, Lady Bird, and Three Billboards do. How strongly do you believe in that statistic?

The PGA and DGA wins, the missing SAG Ensemble nod, the nomination leader; The Shape of Water sounds exactly like La La Land last year, and we all know how that turned how.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Which brings us to our final contender. Three Billboards has won the Golden Globe, BAFTA, and SAG Ensemble. It’s got the key nominations in acting, writing, and editing. It won the Toronto Film Festival People’s Choice Award. There’s a good chance it would have won WGA had it been eligible. There is clearly huge support for this film. It’s also racking up the wins for Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell, who are poised to easily win their acting categories.

There’s really only one major issue: it missed the Best Director nomination. Only four films have ever won Best Picture without a Best Director nomination: Wings, Grand Hotel, Driving Miss Daisy, and Argo. As we mentioned in breaking down Best Director, the year of Argo felt like a strange anomaly, but still. Now, Three Billboards certainly doesn’t have the consistent frontrunner status that Argo had. Missing the director nomination hurts. But if McDonagh was nominated there, I’m not sure we would even be discussing whether Three Billboards was going to win. It would be a slam dunk.

But there’s the backlash issue as well. A great many articles have been written complaining about Three Billboards. Many people find Dixon’s character arc problematic (or even downright racist). Still, with as many wins as the film has, it’s hard to believe the backlash has made its way outside the internet. Does the Academy have a problem with the film? We really don’t know, but aside from the lack of a director nomination, it seems they’re fine with the movie.

All of those are good reasons to predict Three Billboards. If I’m being honest, it’s the smart pick. You would be wise to put this on your ballot. But I’m going a different direction. Because of the effect that a preferential ballot can have, and because I believe more people will rank Three Billboards lower than Get Out, I’m going with Get Out to win the whole thing. As I said in my analysis of Best Original Screenplay, I think whichever of these two films win there wins Best Picture and Get Out feels like the winner.

I’m okay with being wrong. After this very long and confusing awards season, I’m really okay with predicting the wrong winner on Sunday night. But as much as I love Three Billboards, I think Get Out stands a chance if and when the voting goes to multiple rounds.

Will Win: Get Out

Threat: ALL OF THEM, but mainly Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Should Win: Lady Bird

Seeing it on paper is daunting. This really has been the toughest Best Picture season in decades, and possibly ever.

Well, that’s a WRAP on our Oscars analysis for 2018! We’ll have one final bonus episode coming soon to discuss this all in depth. We’ll also have a post-Oscars show to break down all the winners. Stick with the Screeners and join in the conversation.

Analyzing The 2018 Oscars: Part 2 of 3 Tue, 27 Feb 2018 16:00:00 -0500 a8679a86-3595-4653-9a26-8e6583979b56 In the second part of our Oscars analysis, Daniel predicts who will win in the feature categories and why. He covers Animated, Documentary, and Live-Action Shorts, Documentary Feature, Animated Feature, Foreign Language Film, Original Screenplay and Adapted Screenplay. By Daniel Howat

As the 90th Academy Awards are merely days away, we’re analyzing each category and predicting a winner. Yesterday we broke down the tech categories. Today we’ll look at Documentary, Animation, and Live-Action Shorts, Foreign Language Film, Documentary Feature, Animated Feature, Adapted Screenplay, and Original Screenplay.

These categories are some of the toughest to predict since they’re some of the least-watched nominees. Let’s give it a try anyway, starting with the shorts.

Documentary Shorts 2018


Look, the shorts are the hardest categories to predict every year. There’s not really any precursor awards to enlighten us with stats. It’s not as easy to watch them, so it’s tougher to evaluate them even just as a viewer. These are the ballot killers.

I’ve only seen one of the nominees in Documentary Short Subject this year: Heroin(e). It’s a spectacular film, and available on Netflix. But my limited knowledge of these films makes it even tougher to predict, and I’m mainly relying on the knowledge of others to make as good of a guess as I can.

Edith+Eddie has generated the most conversation this year. Cher is an executive producer and has given vocal support. We’ll go with that.

Will Win: Edith+Eddie

Threat: Heroin(e)

Should Win: Heroin(e)

Animated Shorts 2018


I’ve only been able to see three of these films, Dear Basketball, Lou, and Revolting Rhymes. Disney and Pixar are of course strong competitors in this category, but Lou doesn’t seem to be making waves this year. Instead, Dear Basketball has garnered the most buzz. It’s written by Kobe Bryant (and about him as well), directed by Disney legend Glen Keane, and with a score from John Williams. That’s a powerful trio.

Still, in the year of #MeToo, will the Academy be open to rewarding Kobe Bryant? It’s difficult to tell. Garden Party is the film to look out for if you think they pass over Dear Basketball. The animation in Garden Party is insanely realistic, and quite beautiful too. It could certainly get a lot of votes. But I’m going to stick with Dear Basketball.

Will Win: Dear Basketball

Threat: Garden Party

Should Win: Dear Basketball

Live Action Shorts 2018


I haven’t seen a single nominee in this category, so I can’t speak to the quality of any of them. Still, this category feels easily won by DeKalb Elementary. It’s a film about a school shooting. In the wake of the Parkland shooting dominating the news, it would be surprising if this one lost.

Of course, these are the shorts we’re talking about. A surprise win isn’t remotely out of the question.

Will Win: DeKalb Elementary

Threat: The Silent Child

Should Win: N/A

A Fantastic Woman


A Fantastic Woman has garnered the most buzz all season long, largely because of the breakout performance from Daniela Vega. Adding to the buzz, this year Vega will become the first transgender person to present at the Oscars.

The Square won Cannes, but its buzz didn’t carry as far as many thought it would. Still, it’s got a few recognizable faces in it, like Elisabeth Moss, and it might have a solid shot as well. I’m going to go with A Fantastic Woman, but The Square could surprise.

Will Win: A Fantastic Woman

Threat: The Square

Should Win: N/A

Faces Places


This is an abnormally tough category this year, as two of the most lauded documentaries of the year didn’t make the cut here: Jane and City of Ghosts. Faces Places has received plenty of praise this year as well and is notable for making Agnes Varda the oldest Oscar nominee in any category. Last Men In Aleppo made the news recently, as the filmmakers won’t be allowed into the country to go to the ceremony. That likely propelled the directors of The Salesman to win Foreign Language Film last year. Can it happen again here?

Throwing one final wrench into things is Icarus, a beloved and timely documentary. It deals with the Olympics, which just ended, and with Russian corruption, which is constantly in the news. While it could go one of three ways, I’m sticking with Faces Places.

Will Win: Faces Places

Threat: Last Men In Aleppo

Should Win: Icarus



I mean, what is there to even say? 2017 was one of the weakest years for animated film in many years. Coco will win this category and no one is even close. Every precursor award has gone to Coco all season long. Though The Breadwinner and Loving Vincent are respectable, they haven’t exactly generated a great deal of buzz. As for Ferdinand and The Boss Baby...well, they should just be thankful to be here.

Will Win: Coco

Threat: None

Should Win: Coco

Call Me By Your Name Bikes


Like Animated Feature, there’s not a lot that needs to be said here. James Ivory’s screenplay for Call Me By Your Name has won just about every major award that it could, including WGA, BAFTA, and USC. This year hasn’t been very competitive at all for Adapted Screenplays either. Mudbound is the only serious threat to the win, but that’s highly unlikely. Ivory has been highly respected in the industry for a long time. Even though Sony Pictures Classics screwed up the release, robbing Call Me By Your Name of plenty of buzz, Ivory will easily win here.

Will Win: Call Me By Your Name

Threat: Mudbound

Should Win: Call Me By Your Name

Get Out Screenplay


And now we’ve come to one of the most competitive categories of the night. The only nominee that we can say with certainty will miss is The Big Sick. Additionally, The Shape of Water and Lady Bird are mostly out of the race. Now, if The Shape of Water is winning Best Picture (which we'll get to tomorrow), there’s always a chance it could start winning way more awards than expected, picking up this one. Same goes for Lady Bird. But again, neither of those is very likely.

The real race is between Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Get Out. Each has won its fair share of precursors. Golden Globe and BAFTA went to Three Billboards. WGA, Critics’ Choice, and the vast majority of critics’ prizes went to Get Out. The WGA is a bit of an anomaly though since Three Billboards was not eligible. Additionally, Get Out wasn’t even nominated at the Globes. So they’ve competed directly against each other twice, at the BAFTAs and the Critics’ Choice awards, with Three Billboards on top at the first and Get Out winning the second. Where does that leave us?

Three Billboards won Best Picture at both BAFTA and Golden Globes. It won Best Ensemble at the SAG. It received more nominations at the Oscars too, with seven to Get Out’s four. If you are predicting Three Billboards to win Best Picture, you need to predict it to win here. If you are predicting anything else to win, Get Out has a shot at beating Three Billboards.

When looking at BAFTA, Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice, and WGA, BAFTA matches with the Oscar slightly more often than the others. Still, Critics’ Choice and WGA is very close. Golden Globe is the worst of the four. If you combine Critics’ Choice and WGA (which Get Out have won), it’s got a slight edge on BAFTA and Golden Globe (which Three Billboards has). This exact split between those four awards has never happened before, so it’s a little difficult to use stats to predict the winner.

Finally, we just have to use intuition to pick the winner. Get Out makes the most sense as a win, much more sense than Three Billboards. It’s a complex thriller that’s timely, gripping, and surprising. Three Billboards is fantastic as well, but it can be more heavy-handed. Furthermore, Three Billboards has received much more backlash than Get Out, and most of it is directed at the script. So this isn’t an exact science at this point. I’m feeling Get Out will surprise us and win here on Sunday.

Will Win: Get Out

Threat: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Should Win: Get Out

Alright! 18 categories down, six to go. In the final installment of our analysis, we’ll look at the four acting categories, Best Director, and Best Picture. Make sure you follow along on Facebook and Twitter as we get closer to the awards!

Analyzing The 2018 Oscars: Part 1 of 3 Tue, 27 Feb 2018 10:00:00 -0500 1aa83a36-c02a-441e-b5f2-f32c9950bf19 In the first part of our Oscars analysis, Daniel predicts who will win in the tech categories and why. He covers Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup & Hairstyling, Sound Editing and Mixing, Score, Song, Visual Effects, Cinematography, and Editing. By Daniel Howat

The 90th Academy Awards are this week! It’s been one of the most unpredictable Oscar seasons ever, but we’re nearing the end. Over the next few days, we’ll be breaking down every category, analyzing the race, and giving our final predictions. I’ll reveal my pick to win, who could threaten, and who I think should win.

This article will cover the tech categories: Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup & Hairstyling, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Original Score, Original Song, Visual Effects, Cinematography, and Film Editing. Some of these categories will require a lot of analysis, and some are pretty clear-cut. Let’s start with an easy one:

Shape Design


The Shape of Water is entering the Oscars as the nomination leader, snagging a whopping 13 nominations. This is a film very well loved and has a shot at winning Best Picture. It’s going to be a threat in a great deal of these technical categories. Production Design will easily go The Shape of Water, after winning at the BAFTAs, Art Directors Guild, and Critics’ Choice. Blade Runner 2049 will be a close competitor, but I wouldn’t bet on it winning.

Will Win: The Shape of Water

Threat: Blade Runner 2049

Should Win: Blade Runner 2049

Phantom Thread Costumes


This one isn’t nearly as clear-cut. For much of the season, Phantom Thread was seen as the frontrunner here. I mean, it’s a film about costume design for goodness sakes. It won at BAFTA and Critics’ Choice but lost at the Costume Designer’s Guild to The Shape of Water. Still, that seems like a minor setback. The Costume Designer’s Guild isn’t a very strong predictor of the winner in this category. Unless The Shape of Water goes on a run and sweeps many of the techs, this should still go to Phantom Thread.

Will Win: Phantom Thread

Threat: The Shape of Water

Should Win: Phantom Thread

darkest hour


Why beat around the bush? This category is quite easily locked up. Darkest Hour will win this easily. Gary Oldman was completely transformed into Winston Churchill. It won at BAFTA and Critics’ Choice. Victoria & Abdul only has one other nomination (in Costume Design) and Wonder has none. It’s likely more Academy members will have seen Darkest Hour than the other two.

Will Win: Darkest Hour

Threat: None

Should Win: Darkest Hour



Both sound categories have the exact same nominees, and they both have the same frontrunner. Dunkirk could very easily win both of these categories, but Baby Driver makes things complicated. While it only has three nominations, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Film Editing, it could be a major threat in all three of those categories.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Dunkirk’s sound editing is likely to win. Like most war movies, it’s arguably got the most sound effects work of any of the nominees. It’s got plenty of steam here. Baby Driver can threaten here though, and it’s driven (pun intended) by sound and music. It’s a fun pick, and many may look to reward it in the few areas that it’s nominated. Still, don’t count on it here. Dunkirk is the likely winner.

Will Win: Dunkirk

Threat: Baby Driver

Should Win: Dunkirk

Baby Driver


But, being such a music-heavy film, Baby Driver poses an even bigger threat to Dunkirk in Sound Mixing. The music is integrated so intricately into the plot, and that’s all thanks to the mixing. Baby Driver didn’t win at BAFTA, Motion Picture Sound Editors, or Cinema Audio Society. Still, it’s not that rare for a film to win one of the sound awards without one of those precursors. Zero Dark Thirty did it in 2012 when it tied Skyfall for Sound Editing.

Since the Sound categories expanded to five nominees, this is the first time the nominees are the exact same. With identical nominees, will many voters simply vote for the same movie twice? It’s tough to know. Though Dunkirk certainly could win both categories, I’m going to predict a split in Baby Driver’s favor.

Will Win: Baby Driver

Threat: Dunkirk

Should Win: Baby Driver

Shape Score


This is another one of the easy categories. Alexandre Desplat’s score for The Shape of Water will win this one pretty easily. He’s won BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Critics’ Choice. The only time a film won those awards and missed the Oscar was in 2005 when Brokeback Mountain beat Memoirs of a Geisha. Desplat should go into the awards confident.

Now, the only one that could threaten that win is Jonny Greenwood for his Phantom Thread score. This is his first nomination, despite being acclaimed for years. Greenwood was famously deemed ineligible for his previous works, like his score for There Will Be Blood. That will play in his favor, as many will want to reward him for missing out in years past. Still, The Shape of Water is a safe bet.

Will Win: The Shape of Water

Threat: Phantom Thread

Should Win: The Shape of Water

This Is Me


I wrote an entire article on this category for our friends at Next Best Picture, but I feel most confident in declaring “This Is Me” the winner. This is actually a tough category this year, but for interesting reasons. There aren’t many songs that people hugely passionate about. “Remember Me” was the frontrunner all season, but largely by default. “Mystery of Love” is largely viewed at the “best” song, but it never took hold as a threat to win. “Stand Up For Something” got completely lost in the shuffle. Many point to “Mighty River” as a way of rewarding Mary J. Blige and Mudbound when they’ll lose their other nominations. To me, that still seems unlikely.

“This Is Me” benefits from the gigantic box office of The Greatest Showman and huge popularity of the song itself. It was also used as a theme during the Olympics, which occurred while Oscar voting began. There’s no question that this is the most popular song nominated here since “Let It Go.”

Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice have matched with the Oscars the same number of times. When those awards have been split (as they did this year), the Oscar has sided with Globes four times and Critics’ Choice four times. So statistics say “Remember Me” and “This Is Me” have the same shot at winning. Add in the popularity of The Greatest Showman, and I think we have a winner.

Will Win: “This Is Me,” The Greatest Showman

Threat: “Remember Me,” Coco

Should Win: “Mystery of Love,” Call Me By Your Name

Blade Runner Visuals


Early in the season, it looked as though The Planet Of The Apes series might finally get their Visual Effects win this year, but now it’s not looking so great. War For The Planet Of The Apes won the Critics’ Choice, but their track record of predicting the winner isn’t excellent. Furthermore, they awarded both Rise and Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, both of which lost at the Oscars. BAFTA went to Blade Runner 2049, which has only missed the Oscar winner five times since 2000. That’s a strong track record. And the work is honestly stronger. I’m going with that one.

Will Win: Blade Runner 2049

Threat: War For The Planet Of The Apes

Should Win: Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner Cinematography


In any other year, if a film had won as many precursors as Blade Runner 2049 has, there wouldn’t be a question as to who is winning. But our fear of Roger Deakins losing again has us blinded. None of us wants to jinx him. With BAFTA, Critics’ Choice, and American Society of Cinematographers behind him, it seems like it might be his year.

He’s won both BAFTA and ASC one other time and STILL lost the Oscar though, in 2001 for The Man Who Wasn’t There (Critics’ Choice didn’t award Cinematography until 2009). It’s not out of the question for The Shape of Water or Dunkirk to sneak in here. If either Dunkirk or Shape begins to sweep the tech categories, I would start to get worried. But for now, I’m saying it’s finally Deakins’ year, and it will be very well deserved.

Will Win: Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049

Threat: Dan Laustsen, The Shape of Water

Should Win: Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049

Baby Driver Editing


Another battle between Dunkirk and Baby Driver. Conventional wisdom will tell us to go to Dunkirk for a number of reasons. This category is very strongly tied to Best Picture. Only three films in the 21st century have won Best Editing without a Best Picture nomination: Black Hawk Down, The Bourne Ultimatum, and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Interestingly, The Bourne Ultimatum received the same three nominations as Baby Driver, and it won all three.

The award is likely so closely tied to Best Picture because those are the films most likely to be seen by voters. Have enough voters watched and loved Baby Driver to push it over the edge? Baby Driver won Best Editing at the BAFTAs, which is actually a better precursor for the Oscars than ACE. This is honestly a tough call. In such a tough year I don’t see a strong sweep coming from Dunkirk, so I’m making the riskier pick of Baby Driver.

Will Win: Baby Driver

Threat: Dunkirk

Should Win: Baby Driver

That wraps up the tech categories! Let me know what you think of my picks. Don’t forget to join our contest and try to pick the correct winners! Check back in with The Screeners Blog tomorrow as we pick through the Shorts, Documentary Feature, Animated Feature, Foreign Language Film, Original Screenplay, and Adapted Screenplay.

Mute - Daniel's Review Sat, 24 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0500 a2e260ee-7f43-4eaf-8e46-79938812bb15 Daniel reviews Netflix's latest major release, Duncan Jones' sci-fi film Mute. By Daniel Howat

Final Score: 3/10


Duncan Jones’ Mute, is a futuristic, film-noirish world filled with neon lights, flying cars, and holographic billboards. Sound familiar? It should. Though it’s interesting to look at, we’ve seen this world time and time again. Worse though, is that the film doesn’t even utilize this setting in any way. It could be set today, if not for the robots in the background of a few scenes. This was a confusing choice that never paid off.

Leo Beiler (Alexander Skarsgård) suffered an accident as a child, causing him to go mute. He could have had surgery to fix it, but his Amish mother didn’t believe in surgery. Flash-forward into the future, and he’s remained Amish all these years, though it doesn’t have anything further to do with the plot of the film. He’s a bartender in a club and sulks his way through the world with his girlfriend Naadirah. Since Leo can’t speak, Naadirah verbalizes everything that pops into her brain. There’s no subtext when she’s around.

She’s not around for long, though, as she disappears fairly early on. In most films, our hero would spring into action. Not in _Mut_e. There’s not a hint of urgency in this film. It wasn’t clear if Naadirah was missing since Leo didn’t seem in much of a rush to find her. Forty minutes in and I wasn’t even sure what the plot was yet. Without a consistent running narrative, the film gives the audience nothing to care about or hope for. Despite the sexy neon glow, it remained quite boring.

Paul Rudd Mute

Before too long we meet Cactus Bill, played with the charisma you would expect from Paul Rudd. The moment he comes on screen it highlights how bland the character of Leo really is. Cactus Bill is weird and unique and interesting, while Leo is generally boring. Justin Theroux also joins the fun as Bill’s friend Duck. The two are often pretty funny to watch and work well together. Still, there’s a fairly serious tone to the film, which occasionally makes their humor feel forced. While more entertaining to watch, Bill and Duck have an unclear relationship to the plot for much of the film.

This becomes a strange theme of the film: randomness. The fact that the movie is set forty years into the future doesn’t have anything to do with the plot. The Berlin setting doesn’t either. Even stranger things come into play, like the fact that Duck is a pedophile, that seem like they don’t really matter. The film spends so much time developing plot points and quirks that serve no real purpose. It’s constantly frustrating. And it makes the plot tough to recap as well because it’s so difficult to grasp the point of the film. Leo searches for Naadirah, but it takes more than an hour before anything starts to get rolling on that search.

Mute never gives the audience anything to care about. Sleek visuals and some good moments from Rudd can’t make up for a dull plot. This film is streaming on Netflix, but there’s nothing to keep you interested for the two hour runtime. Feel free to skip this one.

Annihilation - Daniel's Review Fri, 23 Feb 2018 02:00:00 -0500 eff715c2-567f-4611-b3e2-bb212a533026 Daniel reviews writer/director Alex Garland's latest feature, Annihilation, starring Natalie Portman. By Daniel Howat

Final Score - 8/10


“A cell never dies. It becomes immortal.”

A mysterious “Shimmer” descends in the middle of a national park, and those sent to discover what it is disappear. Electronics don’t function properly inside the Shimmer. Things don’t appear as they should. None who enter come back. And it’s expanding.

Well, none came back except for one. Biologist Lena (Natalie Portman) finds her soldier husband (Oscar Isaac) back home after he was gone for a year without contact, but he’s not the same. Lena is whisked away and taken to the Shimmer, where she discovers what her husband had been up to on his mission. From the get-go, the film sets a steady, creeping pace that draws you in, slowly building the story. This is the type of film in which the mystery grows as the film goes on. What is this Shimmer? Why is it here? What’s the purpose of the strange things that happen inside?

Lena and four other women are tasked with entering the Shimmer to try to answer some of these questions. Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Anya (Gina Rodriguez), Josie (Tessa Thompson), Cass (Tuva Novotny), and Lena embark on this mission knowing they’re not likely to return. Immediately inside the Shimmer, things begin to feel off. There are a few cheap jump scares, but Annihilation creates an eerie atmosphere that naturally builds anticipation and wonder rather than relying on horror tropes. It feels effortless. This world that’s disorienting the characters is gorgeous and constantly interesting. The Shimmer gives the film a purplish-pink glow, there are unnaturally beautiful flower formations, and so much more. It’s enticing, while still filled with a sense of dread.

Gina Rodriguez

Though we aren’t given much depth with these characters, they’re all played with such strength and power and nuance. What sort of people would embark on a mission that will end in certain death? Lesser films would build these characters up as heroes risking their lives to save the world. Annihilation is never interested in saving the world. These women are there to find answers. Of course, Portman shines as our lead, exploring this world both with hesitation and determination. She’s stoic and steady, but open and desperate for answers. Rodriguez is the standout here though, giving a brilliant, complex performance that makes you pay attention.

What they find inside the Shimmer is beautiful. Stunning cinematography and amazing production design make up for hit-or-miss visual effects. Though this world is beautiful, it’s often brutal. There are some unrelenting, violent sequences. One creature in particular will surely disturb you well after you leave the film. Still, these moments never feel cheap or cliche. Every moment of horror is earned.

As they go deeper into the Shimmer for answers, they keep coming up with more questions. They find ominous remnants of previous missions. Video recordings from this earlier team show the women what awaits them. The film keeps you confused, questioning what you’re supposed to believe, what you’re supposed to understand. Life, death, and self-destruction are constant themes. A grungy-electronic dissonant score pervades much of the film, aiding this threatening, beautiful world. Many scenes were scored with a plucking acoustic guitar. There seemed to be an odd disconnect between these two types of scores, but I suppose that’s the sort of thing that makes sense within this strange place.

This is writer/director Alex Garland’s second directorial feature after 2014’s Ex Machina. It’s clear he’s interested in films that ask more questions than give answers. There’s a discomfort in that. Viewers should be prepared to let these types of films marinate in the mind. Annihilation is a stunning work, intriguing from beginning to end.

Black Panther - Daniel's Review Fri, 16 Feb 2018 03:00:00 -0500 f31d2837-d383-4637-a30f-3d030cb9d844 Daniel reviews Marvel latest film, Black Panther, from director Ryan Coogler. By Daniel Howat

Final Score: 8/10

black panther

Long live the King.

It would have been so easy for Black Panther to be just another entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It could have been a light but fun popcorn film, with a disposable villain and forgettable story. It could have been Black Panther fighting crime in America alongside a dozen bland white guys. Instead, we get director Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, a film full of distinct style, strong characters, and representation. Don’t get me wrong, this film fits fully into the mold of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but that’s not an insult. It simultaneously brings something new and different to the table while still making sense in the Universe.

Black Panther picks up as Prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is about to be crowned King after his father’s death in Captain America: Civil War. The film takes place almost entirely in Wakanda, the fictional country in the heart of Africa hidden from the outside world. Thanks to rich deposits of vibranium, Wakanda is light years ahead of the rest of the world’s technology. Flying ships, powerful weapons, and lifesaving medical devices, their knowledge is vast, but they’ve kept it all to themselves. As expected, T’Challa’s rise to the throne won’t come without a test or two.

In building the world of Wakanda, you can feel the creativity bursting at the seams. No other Earth-set Marvel film has felt this unique. It doesn’t take long to settle into this world, the culture, the people, and the customs. The costumes, the tech, the tribes - it’s all stunning. Aiding the feel of this world is Ludwig Göransson’s percussive, electric, and orchestral score. Everything feels drastically different in Wakanda, giving Black Panther a remarkable vibe that sets it apart.

Also setting Black Panther apart are the fully-fleshed out characters inhabiting the world. Black Panther himself is great, but the supporting cast constantly takes center stage. The Wakandan women are strong and imposing fighters, led by General Okoye (Danai Gurira). T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) is a gifted technician, using vibranium to come up with innovative new weapons and technology. Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia is a Wakandan spy and fighter, and also the ex-girlfriend of T’Challa. These women (and many more!) are powerful and defend their people with strength like we’ve rarely seen on screen. Ulysses Klaue, the only outsider to plague the nation for decades, is played with glee by Andy Serkis.


Still, there’s no question who gives the best performance in the film. Michael B. Jordan gives us something rare in a Marvel film: a well-rounded, believable, and frightening villain. As Killmonger, using Klaue to get into Wakanda, Jordan is real and full of depth. He’s a challenger to the throne and seeks to use Wakanda’s resources to overthrow governments around the world. This is Coogler and Jordan’s third film together, and Jordan consistently brings charisma and natural swagger to every role. He outshines Boseman’s Black Panther, though that makes for an interesting conflict.

The plot itself isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but they make up for it in style and setting. For a good portion of the film, as our heroes are trying to gain intel on Klaue, it feels almost like a spy thriller. A scene in a casino, though a familiar setup, felt different for a Marvel film, with more espionage than cartoonish action. We also get more intimate fight scenes than we’re used to, as the challengers to the throne fight T’Challa in hand-to-hand combat. These are some of the best scenes in the film, with some brutal action that works really well to establish the stakes of the throne. Of course, as with all Marvel movies, it does delve into some extended CGI fight scenes in the end. T’Challa and Killmonger’s climactic battle feels fairly bland, especially in comparison to the exhilarating fight going on above them. The women of Wakanda fight off Killmonger’s forces in broad daylight, giving a fantastic battle sequence.

Though this is a Marvel film, with many of the traditional trappings of the genre, Coogler manages to bring as many of his own sensibilities as he can. Killmonger’s backstory takes place in Oakland, California, Coogler’s hometown. It grounds the movie much more than I anticipated it would. There’s righteous anger inside Killmonger for many reasons, including from what he witnessed growing up in that city. Oppression, chaos, death - not just there but around the world. Killmonger is angry, and maybe rightfully so, but he takes his anger too far. He’s great opposition for T’Challa, who is angry too but with more restraint.

Black Panther is a fantastic superhero movie, but it’s also impossible to separate the film from what it represents. It’s a film that represents representation. It’s not just full of black actors, but black culture through and through. It has badass women in power. We may be 18 films into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but this is a gigantic step in the right direction. Black Panther is a fresh entry into the superhero genre, and an important entry into the world of film.

The 15:17 To Paris - Daniel's Review Mon, 12 Feb 2018 03:00:00 -0500 9a98565d-3cd9-40bf-a0d1-f61ca2913494 Daniel reviews Clint Eastwood's drama-thriller The 15:17 To Paris. By Daniel Howat

Final Score: 1 out of 10

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What took place on August 21st, 2015 on the 15:17 train from Amsterdam to Paris was an act of genuine courage and heroism. Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos are heroes. They are not actors. And that’s okay. But director Clint Eastwood made the erroneous decision to cast these men in their true story, undermining the film from the start. But the blame isn’t all on the leading men.

So let me cut to the chase: The 15:17 To Paris is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.

Not every incredible true story necessitates a movie. The real-life attack on the train lasted a matter of minutes. While on that train, a terrorist emerged from a restroom with an assault rifle. He shot one man while struggling to gain control of his weapon. When the terrorist’s gun jammed, our three heroes lept into action, taking the man down. Incredible story though it may be, stretching it out to a 90-minute film was a misguided idea from the start. Maybe there could be a scenario to make this story work in a film, but following the early lives of these men was the wrong choice.

The interesting thing about the men is that they’re normal people. They were ordinary men who made an extraordinary decision, saving countless lives. Attempting to make a story out of normal men was...highly boring. The film tries to show how they were destined for greatness, and it just never makes any sense. The first half of the film shows them as preteens making friends and getting into trouble. It doesn’t connect to the event on the train at all. The middle portion shows Spencer as he trains for the Air Force. It doesn’t actually connect to the event on the train either. The latter half of the film just follows the guys as they travel Europe. It does connect to the event on the train! Except it’s just truly uneventful. So much time in this movie is literally dedicated to taking selfies on the trip. Or just having dinner. It’s just following dudes on a trip. It could’ve been anyone. It’s embarrassing.

While most people might focus on how bad the acting is here, and it certainly is bad, it’s not remotely the worst aspect of the movie. Right from the very start of the film, as it opens with a pointless voice-over, it’s clear how horrible the writing is. The dialogue in this movie feels worse than most Lifetime movies.

15:17 To Paris

“There’s just something about war...the brotherhood, ya know?” That’s a line that a 12-year-old boy says to his friends after they all fall down in the leaves together while laughing and playing airsoft. It’s painful. “I don’t know man, you ever feel like life is just pushing us towards something, like some greater purpose?” These lines all just feel so uncomfortable. Sure, the men aren’t trained actors, which makes the delivery even worse, but this script wouldn’t work no matter who was cast.

The film also attempts to inject faith periodically into the story. The mom characters (Judy Greer and Jenna Fischer) randomly spout vague references to their belief in God. Every time the film invokes God, it feels so wrong and offensive. Greer’s character angrily shouts at a teacher that “God is bigger” than the teacher’s problems with Anthony. The principal tells Greer that her son should go live with his father, citing his discussions with the Lord. It’s so simplistic, insulting, and just badly written. It serves no purpose in the story, except to make it feel as though it was trying (and failing) to be a Christian film. Though it makes Christians look foolish and obnoxious.

When we finally get to the climax of the film, there are brief moments of good tension. It’s easily the best part of the film since it’s the part of the story that’s worth being filmed. The attack is tense and shot with gripping realism. But after those two minutes are over, we spend far too much time just watching Spencer try to stop a man from bleeding out. It goes on for far too long and completely ruins any good that they had going for them.

While these men are heroes, this film is a huge waste of time. It’s the opposite of compelling. It’s completely uninteresting. Terrible acting, worse writing, and a complete lack of purpose, this movie would’ve been better left as a very short documentary. Do not see The 15:17 To Paris.

8 Examples of John Williams at his Emotional Best Mon, 05 Feb 2018 19:30:00 -0500 ef491c43-5c78-4ff9-a15a-fff4ce1f5d9e By Chad Guyton

"Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.." -Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Composer, conductor, producer, maestro, teacher, genius. These platitudes only begin to describe the wholly unique, John Williams. With over 50 Oscar nominations(five wins) and 24 Grammy Awards, his prolific output is matched only by his cultural impact. In honor of his 86th birthday, I decided to listen to his every available composition with the specific goal of discovering the scores that would move me not just because of the film to which it was attached, but as a stand-alone work.

Over the last few weeks, I had the great pleasure of listening to hundreds of his concertos, orchestral works, and yes, film scores. My daily immersion into the fabric of his music proved to be unexpectedly emotional. And while I was thrilled to experience once again the iconic themes that served as the backdrop of my childhood, it was his lesser-known work that moved me beyond a nostalgic high and into a personal rumination on life, my family, dreams of the past, and the future awaiting my son. Heavy stuff, I know, but that is the power inherent in music. It can make you believe a man could fly, that a robot boy could long for his "mother," and a high-school teacher turned soldier would lay down his life to get a Private safely back home.

Having just finished the score for The Last Jedi and The Post I am overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for the gift that Mr. Williams has given us for the last 60 years. And while it would be impossible to narrow down his work to an objective "best of" list, I offer the following eight examples of John Williams at his emotional best.

War Horse: The Reunion

The primary challenge in making a film version of the stage play War Horse was trying to find a way for an audience to make an emotional connection with an equine central character. While the film may not have fully succeeded in that regard, the score does everything it can to sell the idea. The Reunion feels like cinema. The entrance of the main theme (at 37 seconds) is GORGEOUS. At once subtle and warm, this is classic John Williams.

Saving Private Ryan: High-School Teacher

The longest selection on this list, High School Teacher beautifully weaves the main theme throughout. It is solemn but hopeful and conveys perfectly the unit's tension between a longing for home and their respective lives and families against their determination to finish the mission (Ryan) even if they don't fully understand it. This underscore lifts a heart-wrenching conversation from Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) as he reveals the mystery of his life back in Adley, Pennsylvania.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Reunion of Friends

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the perfect canvas for John Williams. His ability to maintain the sense of whimsy established in Sorcerors Stone while allowing for the darker elements in Secrets is what makes this track so special. Having just defeated the basilisk, Harry meets his friends in the Great Hall. Reunion of Friends opens with a sense of joy and triumph. The interlude implies dangers yet to come but leaves an impression that the relationships between the characters will be the key to future victories. The ending feels like a score from 40 years ago, and I mean that in the best way possible.

Angela's Ashes: Angles Never Cough

Angela's Ashes tells the story of the McCourt family, an Irish clan forced by poverty to return (from New York) to their ancestral home in Limerick. The film was shot with stoic realism, and the score is appropriately somber. At only 2:32, Angles Never Cough beautifully conveys the theme of hope in the face of despair. Rich strings and a wonderfully expressive piano anchor this haunting and beautiful work.

The Patriot: Ann Recruits the Parishioners

Yes. The Patriot. A Roland Emmerich joint. John Williams was famously brought onto this project after David Arnold was removed. While the film is packed with capital A - Action, Ann Recruits the Parishioners is a lovely interlude that instantly caused me to smile as I realized I was once again in the hands of a master composer. The soaring horns at the midway point are majestic and regal.

Artificial Intelligence: The Reunion

The Reunion is probably John Williams' most underrated score. It has been a few years since my last viewing of A.I., so I was wholly unprepared for the reaction I had when listening to this seven-minute and forty-seven-second masterpiece. This is a breathtaking piece of work that transported me to the moment when after thousands of years, David was at last reunited with his "mother." This inevitably led me to thoughts of my mother, and it wrecked me. While this track doesn't have an instantly memorable theme, it does have something not entirely quantifiable at its core. Something raw. Something beautiful. Something good.

Munich: A Prayer for Peace

No one can compose a lament like John Williams. While there are good arguments to be made for Saving Private Ryan's Hymn to the Fallen or the Main Theme from Schindler's List, I can feel the pain of loss and sadness in A Prayer for Peace. The lush strings and haunting violin melody are played with such pathos it's almost physically painful to hear. I envisioned people praying to their God out of a heart filled with suffering. It is powerful and unrelenting.

Lincoln: The People's House

After Munich I wanted to end on a more uplifting note. I almost chose The Petersen House and Finale but ultimately ended up with The People's House. It is immediately light and buoyant. The flute is featured throughout and helps to propel the orchestra as it builds to a thoroughly patriotic and American sound. This is the most John Williams score on the list, and while it doesn't stray far from his previously established work, it perfectly captures the feeling of hope embodied by President Lincoln as he prepared for his life's most important work.

The Greatest Football Films to Watch Before The Super Bowl Sat, 03 Feb 2018 17:00:00 -0500 7688a3bc-738c-4828-8081-133eb8a150fd Want to get in the mood for the Super Bowl? Check out our favorite football movies! By Daniel Howat

We’re awaiting Super Bowl LII on Sunday, February 4th, so what better way to prepare than by watching some great football films? Surprisingly there haven’t been any films made about the Super Bowl yet, but we’ve still got plenty of great movies about football to get you and your family ready for the big game. Check out our picks below, and let us know your additions!

Remember The Titans


One of the most iconic football films of all time is also a fantastic family film about race. Denzel Washington gives one of his best performances in Disney's inspiring drama about one of the first integrated high school football teams. Remember The Titans also helped introduce us to Ryan Gosling, so it’s a gift of a film all around.



If you want to get a grown man to cry, this is a good place to start. The ultimate underdog story, the film follows Rudy as he follows his dreams to play for Notre Dame. It’s a crowd-pleaser, and football films don’t get much better than this.

Jerry Maguire


It’s a bit of a different type of football film, but it counts nonetheless. This romantic-drama-comedy follows sports agent Jerry Maguire as he makes drastic changes in his life to be a more honest agent. It’s also one of the most quotable movies of all time.



There have been plenty of wonderful sports documentaries over the years, but this is the best of them all. It follows a high school team in Tennessee who struggles to turn around their program after many losing seasons. Undefeated is unbelievably inspiring, truly moving, and one of the best documentaries of all time.



Another Disney football movie, this one stars Mark Wahlberg in the unlikely story of Vince Papale. Without any collegiate experience, Papale scored an opportunity to join the Philadelphia Eagles, becoming the oldest rookie to play in the NFL. It’s such a fun movie, especially with the Eagles playing in this year’s Super Bowl!

The Blind Side


One of the few sports film to get real love at the Academy Awards, The Blind Side won Sandra Bullock the Oscar for Best Actress. It’s a lovely film about the Tuohy family who adopted Michael Oher. After learning to play football in high school, Oher went on to play in the NFL. This was a major hit, and a great film to watch with the family.

Draft Day


Another football film of a different kind, Draft Day went well under the radar upon its release. Still, it’s a highly interesting look at the NFL drafting process, and what teams will go through to made the right picks. It’s fairly simple, but a great alternative to the traditional crowd-pleasing football movies.

Little Giants


A favorite of 90s kids, Little Giants gives the nerdy kids a chance to play. The kids are goofy, and Rick Moranis is hilarious. I for one will never forget the image of that one kid’s huge snot bubble. Outside of that, it’s a funny, light movie that the kids are sure to love.

Friday Night Lights


Some may argue that the TV Adaptation is superior (and they’re not wrong), but the film Friday Night Lights is fantastic in its own right. Filmed with such realism, it feels authentic and honest, lending heart to the film. Capturing the spirit of Texas high school football, it’s a great film, moving and exciting.

Last Chance U


Okay, okay, this is a TV show, not a film, but it’s one of the best pieces of football entertainment ever made. This Netflix documentary series follows East Mississippi Community College, a school known for reviving the career chances of troubled football players. The team is filled with lovable characters, beautiful cinematography, and rousing stakes. It’s a must-see show.

How’s our list? Did we miss any of your favorites? Do you disagree with our picks? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter!

Three Movies That Deserve a Second Look At Oscar Season Thu, 01 Feb 2018 19:00:00 -0500 d2bce776-dd53-45ff-947a-9e92787646c5 Oscar season provides an opportunity to take a second look at some of the best cinematic moments of the past year, and this Oscar season is no exception. Here are a few films that we believe deserve more attention! Three Movies That Deserve a Second Look At Oscar Season
-Britain Miethe

What was your favorite movie of 2017?

For some, exploring the social implications of the Sunken Place in Get Out was the key cultural moment among 2017’s cinematic offerings. Others thrived on the soaring comedic highs and heart-wrenching emotional lows of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Still more viewers reacquainted themselves with the enchantment which escapism offers, choosing to leave their worries at the door and create memories with such films as Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Thor: Ragnarok, or, God forbid, The Boss Baby.

This week’s Oscar nominations have brought last year’s films back into the spotlight, and we want to take this opportunity to illuminate a few movies that we think deserve a second look.

The Florida Project - Nominated for Actor in a Supporting Role (Willem Dafoe)

Florida Project

One of Chad and Daniel’s most loved movies of 2017, The Florida Project is a movie which highlights the difficulties and devastation that accompany poverty, but never forgets to showcase the hope and joy still found in life’s smallest moments.

Anchored by equally brilliant performances from Willem Dafoe and seven-year-old actress Brooklynn Prince, The Florida Project doesn’t attempt to preach at its viewers about the shadow economy or the material, and at times moral, sacrifices that are made in order to make rent or put food on the table, but what it does is allow you insight into the world of its characters, and hope that you may walk away with a new perspective and greater understanding.

Coco - Nominated for Animated Feature Film, Original Song


I’m not crying; you’re crying.

Nope, I’m still crying. If you’ve seen Coco, chances are that you are as well.

Coco didn’t exactly fly under the radar, earning upwards of 621 million dollars at the worldwide box office, but it still has to fight against the inherent bias that informs viewers’ opinions of animated features.

Any other film with a 97% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, almost universally-positive word of mouth and a proven studio behind it would certainly be in the best picture conversation, if not near the top of the leaderboard. However, Coco was barely an afterthought when it came to many year-end lists.

If you’re looking for an emotionally intelligent movie, complete with relatable characters, an incredibly authentic, diverse cultural tone and a masterful balance of laughter and tears, Coco is the movie for you.

Mudbound - Four Oscar Nominations


From the studio that brings you the worst marketing plans in the history of the film industry comes Mudbound, a period drama that deals with race relations, family tensions and the psychological effects of war on the human psyche.

Mudbound is as well shot as it is poignant, earning Rachel Morrison a nomination for best cinematography, making her the first woman ever to be nominated for that particular award. All you have to do is take one listen to Mary J. Blige’s nominated song “Mighty River” to understand the vibrancy and importance that Mudbound brings to the table.

What Did We Miss?

At The Screeners Podcast, we love to hear from you! What other Oscar movies do you think went under the radar? Which movies were snubs? Can you explain how on earth The Boss Baby is an Oscar-nominated film?

Sound off in the comments, and share this article with your friends.

Most of all, we hope that you have an incredible time at the movies!

Britain's Top Ten Movies of 2017 Wed, 24 Jan 2018 23:00:00 -0500 829c938d-b6ae-490b-917a-4117513fc428 Screeners writer Britain Miethie lists his ten favorite films of 2017 To hear all the Screeners talk about their lists and why they picked the films, check out our Top Ten of 2017 Episode. Already a listener of The Screeners Podcast? Help us reach new people by leaving us a review and rating on iTunes.

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From The Big Sick to Baby Driver to IT, 2017 was a year of learning to dive into genre movies, experience films with more people and dive deeper into the cinema for me. I’m so glad I did and so glad that I got to see some incredible movies this past year.
-Britain Miethe


Fact-based drama set during the 1967 Detroit riots in which a group of rogue police officers responds to a complaint with retribution rather than justice on their minds.

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9. IT

A group of bullied kids bands together when a shapeshifting monster, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children.

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Stronger is the inspiring real-life story of Jeff Bauman, an ordinary man who captured the hearts of his city and the world to become a symbol of hope after surviving the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

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An estranged family gathers together in New York for an event celebrating the artistic work of their father.

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Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire, and France are surrounded by the German Army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

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In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X, somewhere on the Mexican border. However, Logan's attempts to hide from the world, and his legacy, are upended when a young mutant arrives, pursued by dark forces.

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Aspiring musician Miguel, confronted with his family's ancestral ban on music, enters the Land of the Dead to find his great-great-grandfather, a legendary singer.

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After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.

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A mother personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter's murder when they fail to catch the culprit.

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Pakistan-born comedian Kumail Nanjiani and grad student Emily Gardner fall in love but struggle as their cultures clash. When Emily contracts a mysterious illness, Kumail finds himself forced to face her feisty parents, his family's expectations, and his true feelings.

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Honorable Mentions

Spider-Man Homecoming
Lego Batman
The Post
War for the Planet of the Apes
Darkest Hour

Josh's Top Ten Movies of 2017 Wed, 24 Jan 2018 23:00:00 -0500 c9f94b12-09c8-4c69-8973-ec0fa30b1a58 Screeners co-host Josh Ziegler lists his ten favorite films of 2017 To hear all the Screeners talk about their lists and why they picked the films, check out our Top Ten of 2017 Episode. Already a listener of The Screeners Podcast? Help us reach new people by leaving us a review and rating on iTunes.

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Everyone else had to agonize over their choices; my process was more along the lines of “list all the movies you saw last year…OK; now subtract 8 of them. Done.” My cinematic ineptitude is matched only by the efficiency of my list construction. Enjoy.
-Josh Ziegler


A young blade runner's discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who's been missing for thirty years.

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An idiosyncratic general confronts opposition from enemies, allies, and bureaucrats while leading a massive rebuild operation in Afghanistan.

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A behind-the-scenes look at how Jim Carrey adopted the persona of idiosyncratic comedian Andy Kaufman on the set of Man on the Moon (1999).

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It's time for a young African-American to meet with his white girlfriend's parents for a weekend in their secluded estate in the woods, but before long, the friendly and polite ambiance will give way to a nightmare.

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In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X, somewhere on the Mexican border. However, Logan's attempts to hide from the world, and his legacy, are upended when a young mutant arrives, pursued by dark forces.

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Based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a group of elite firefighters who risk everything to protect a town from a historic wildfire.

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A cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents pushed the country's first female newspaper publisher and a hard-driving editor to join an unprecedented battle between the press and the government.

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Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire, and France are surrounded by the German Army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

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When Bryan Fogel sets out to uncover the truth about doping in sports, a chance meeting with a Russian scientist transforms his story from a personal experiment into a geopolitical thriller involving dirty urine, unexplained death and Olympic Gold-exposing the biggest scandal in sports history.

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Pakistan-born comedian Kumail Nanjiani and grad student Emily Gardner fall in love but struggle as their cultures clash. When Emily contracts a mysterious illness, Kumail finds himself forced to face her feisty parents, his family's expectations, and his true feelings.

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Honorable Mentions

Lego Batman
Baby Driver (for originality)

Chris' Top Ten Movies of 2017 Wed, 24 Jan 2018 22:00:00 -0500 c254b021-9a43-4f90-9503-0af646c02a01 Screeners Co-Host Chris Farrell lists his ten favorite films of 2017. To hear all the Screeners talk about their lists and why they picked the films, check out our Top Ten of 2017 Episode. Already a listener of The Screeners Podcast? Help us reach new people by leaving us a review and rating on iTunes.

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I love movies. Here are 10.
-Chris Farrell


The true story of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran the world's most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target.

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Three girls are kidnapped by a man with a diagnosed 23 distinct personalities. They must try to escape before the apparent emergence of a frightful new 24th.

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When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, Diana, an Amazonian warrior in training, leaves home to fight a war, discovering her full powers and true destiny.

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When Bryan Fogel sets out to uncover the truth about doping in sports, a chance meeting with a Russian scientist transforms his story from a personal experiment into a geopolitical thriller involving dirty urine, unexplained death and Olympic Gold-exposing the biggest scandal in sports history.

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After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.

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In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X, somewhere on the Mexican border. However, Logan's attempts to hide from the world, and his legacy, are upended when a young mutant arrives, pursued by dark forces.

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A couple's relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.

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It's time for a young African-American to meet with his white girlfriend's parents for a weekend in their secluded estate in the woods, but before long, the friendly and polite ambiance will give way to a nightmare.

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A young blade runner's discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who's been missing for thirty years.

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Rey develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker, who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares for battle with the First Order.

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Daniel's Top Ten Movies of 2017 Wed, 24 Jan 2018 22:00:00 -0500 a0d44f96-82f2-4e33-9d8f-bda35e3ae554 Screeners Co-Host Daniel Howat lists his ten favorite films of 2017. To hear all the Screeners talk about their lists and why they picked the films, check out our Top Ten of 2017 Episode. Already a listener of The Screeners Podcast? Help us reach new people by leaving us a review and rating on iTunes.

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Every year I keep a running list of my favorite films and update it whenever I see a great movie. I had a very long list this year. It was tough to narrow them down, but here are my top ten favorite films of 2017.
-Daniel Howat

10. I, TONYA.

Competitive ice skater Tonya Harding rises amongst the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but her future in the activity is thrown into doubt when her ex-husband intervenes.

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In Northern Italy in 1983, seventeen-year-old Elio begins a relationship with visiting Oliver, his father's research assistant, with whom he bonds over his emerging sexuality, their Jewish heritage, and the beguiling Italian landscape.

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Pakistan-born comedian Kumail Nanjiani and grad student Emily Gardner fall in love but struggle as their cultures clash. When Emily contracts a mysterious illness, Kumail finds himself forced to face her feisty parents, his family's expectations, and his true feelings.

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Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire, and France are surrounded by the German Army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

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Fact-based drama set during the 1967 Detroit riots in which a group of rogue police officers responds to a complaint with retribution rather than justice on their minds.

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A mother personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter's murder when they fail to catch the culprit.

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It's time for a young African-American to meet with his white girlfriend's parents for a weekend in their secluded estate in the woods, but before long, the friendly and polite ambiance will give way to a nightmare.

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After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.

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Set over one summer, the film follows precocious six-year-old Moonee as she courts mischief and adventure with her ragtag playmates and bonds with her rebellious but caring mother, all while living in the shadows of Disney World.

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In 2002, an artistically inclined seventeen-year-old girl comes of age in Sacramento, California.

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Melody's Top Ten Movies of 2017 Wed, 24 Jan 2018 20:00:00 -0500 a99c7226-3047-4a08-880f-983221489cfe Screeners Co-Host Melody Farrell lists her ten favorite films of 2017. To hear all the Screeners talk about their lists and why they picked the films, check out our Top Ten of 2017 Episode. Already a listener of The Screeners Podcast? Help us reach new people by leaving us a review and rating on iTunes.

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I did not have time to see enough movies this year, but I did see enough to have a pretty solid top ten! Looking forward to catching the ones I missed, but in the meantime, these movies are worth loving!
-Melody Farrell


Rey develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker, who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares for battle with the First Order.

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When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, Diana, an Amazonian warrior in training, leaves home to fight a war, discovering her full powers and true destiny.

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A cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents pushed the country's first female newspaper publisher and a hard-driving editor to join an unprecedented battle between the press and the government.

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7. IT

A group of bullied kids bands together when a shapeshifting monster, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children.

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The true story of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran the world's most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target.

Screeners Logo - No Text


Aspiring musician Miguel, confronted with his family's ancestral ban on music, enters the Land of the Dead to find his great-great-grandfather, a legendary singer.

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Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire, and France are surrounded by the German Army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

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It's time for a young African-American to meet with his white girlfriend's parents for a weekend in their secluded estate in the woods, but before long, the friendly and polite ambiance will give way to a nightmare.

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After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.

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Pakistan-born comedian Kumail Nanjiani and grad student Emily Gardner fall in love but struggle as their cultures clash. When Emily contracts a mysterious illness, Kumail finds himself forced to face her feisty parents, his family's expectations, and his true feelings.

Chad's Top Ten Movies of 2017 Wed, 24 Jan 2018 15:30:00 -0500 fa68486b-94ea-4cdb-81cb-e5e1d5bb7567 Screeners Co-host Chad Guyton shares his ten favorite films of 2017. By Chad Guyton

To hear all the Screeners talk about their lists and why they picked the films, check out our Top Ten of 2017 Episode. Already a listener of The Screeners Podcast? Help us reach new people by leaving us a review and rating on iTunes.

I saw a lot of movies in 2017, and while this list isn't what I consider to be the "best of," it does represent the ten films that had the most significant impact on me.

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It's possible that Mudbound may have been higher on my list had I had the opportunity to view it in a proper theatre. Rachel Morrison's cinematography is breathtaking; and deserving of the Oscar nomination. While the film at times seems to take the obvious narrative path, its performances are outstanding throughout. Directed with a confident eye by Dee Reese, Mudbound deftly explores racism, responsibility, and family through the lens of a World War II-era rural Mississippi farm. Don't let this one get buried in your Netflix Que.

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I confess I didn't know or remember the real story at the heart of Only the Brave, and as a result, this was the most emotional experience I had in the theatre in 2017. The ensemble cast is superb, and the movie wisely sidesteps traditional biopic moments to focus on the esprit de corps shared by these men. It's devastating and effective, and a worthy tribute to the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

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James Mangold strips away the costumes and other super-hero artifices to give us a Logan who burns with an undercurrent of rage and heartbreak. Had it been released in the fall, I believe both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart would have joined the conversation of award-worthy performances. Gritty and violent, yes, but Logan is also a nuanced look at family and fatherhood. Subverting "comic book movie" troupes at almost every turn, it plays more like a classic western than anything else. If this is genuinely Jackman's swan song as the Wolverine, he goes out in the best possible way. (Bonus points for my favorite closing shot of the year).

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There are two kinds of people in the world; those who "get" The Room and those who don't deserve your friendship. Having enjoyed the brilliance of Tommy Wiseau's directorial debut for many years, I admit to being predisposed to liking this film. I wasn't prepared, however, to love it. Full of laughs as well as genuine emotion, The Disaster Artist is a love-letter to filmmaking, friendship, and dream chasing. A previous viewing of The Room isn't required to enjoy The Disaster Artist, but it will deepen your appreciation for what James Franco and company were able to accomplish.

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6. COC0

Knowing little about the story or production of Coco, I went into my screening with low expectations. I can't recall how I came out of the theater because my brain hurt from crying. Exploring family, pain, and loss aren't new to Pixar, but in Coco they justify the emotional ending punch by establishing a rich and complex narrative focused in and around Día de Muertos. Accurately depicting the people, customs, and traditions of other cultures is essential, and Coco beautifully represents Mexico. The animation is as good or better than any previous Pixar film, and the use of "Remember Me" is elegant and heartbreaking. I hate to use words like "important" when discussing a work of cinema, but I believe that years from now we will look back on Coco and remember it not only as a great film but an important one as well.

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Maybe the most polarizing film of 2017, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri is brutally violent, deeply moving, and darkly funny. Francis McDormand gives an Oscar-worthy performance as a mother seeking answers related to her daughter's rape and murder. Sam Rockwell's turn as racist cop "Dixon" is maybe the best acting I saw last year. This movie isn't interested in easy answers and challenges you to watch hurt and broken people make one mistake after another. It exists in the grey area between right and wrong, where the threat of violence is ever-present and moments of humanity are fleeting. It's not for everyone, but for those who lock into the tone Martin McDonagh has so expertly crafted, a unique experience awaits.

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Brigsby Bear is one of the sweetest and most earnest films I've ever seen. There isn't a cynical frame to be found in Dave McCary's directorial debut. I won't give away the premise except to say that the lynchpin is Kyle Mooney's portrayal of James. Equal parts awkward and adorable, Mooney plays James as a real person, never going for the cheap laugh or comedic gimmick. I found it impossible to resist the charms of Brigsby Bear and ultimately gave in to this weird, funny, nostalgic, and beautiful film. You should too.

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Taylor Sheridan is on a roll. After writing Sicario, Hell or Highwater, and now writing and directing Wind River, he has demonstrated an uncanny ability to manage tone. Rookie FBI agent Jane Banner (Elisabeth Olsen) is our window into the unsolved murder of a Native American woman. Jeremy Renner plays a veteran tracker who is dealing with unresolved issues on a personal level. Their chemistry is vital to ensuring the narrative works, and they both excel in bringing depth and empathy to their characters. What could have been a simple genre exercise is elevated by the taut script, authentic performances (Gil Birmingham as a broken-hearted father is excellent), and Sheridan's direction. I was enthralled as he ratcheted up the tension to an almost unbearable level. Much like Jeremy Saulnier, Sheridan has established himself as someone who understands how to get the most from a premise, and I can't wait to see what comes next.

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As only Christopher Nolen could do, Dunkirk eschews traditional war movie troupes and instead gives us a narratively complex view of differing groups, over different time periods, all trying to do one thing: survive. It is the purest piece of filmmaking I saw in 2017, and one that should win Nolen the Academy Award for directing (even though Del Toro will probably take the prize). Working from a script of fewer than 50 pages, Dunkirk has little dialogue but is bursting with imagery that is at once iconic and unforgettable. The pace is unrelenting and I physically felt claustrophobic during several sequences. Not only is the technical prowess breathtaking, but I was moved as Nolen's puzzle starts to solve and things begin to overlap. Seeing (and hearing) this in 4k Laser IMAX was a cinematic high point for 2017, and were it not for a little indie film with a bunch of kids in a hotel, it would have been my number one of the year.

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The Florida Project is the best film of 2017. Full. Stop. No, it doesn't have a traditional narrative structure, it is an unflinching view of poverty and child abuse, it has unlikeable characters throughout, the ending (for some) is challenging; and it is precisely for those reasons and more that I fell in love with this film. Sean Baker has given us a gift. A masterpiece. His resistance to cinematic flourishes that would have "enhanced" moments for effect is vital. We see these people living their lives, simply trying to exist and find moments of joy in the in-between. Brooklyn Prince is magnificent and should have been nominated for an Academy Award for her turn as Mooney. She is hilarious, rude, and playful. In other words, a kid. There isn't a false note for any of these characters, and the ensemble is highlighted by Aiden Malik and Valeria Cotto as Mooney's friends, Bria Vinaite as her mother, and a career-defining performance by Willem Dafoe as the caretaker of "The Magic Castle". It's been a couple of months since I saw this movie, and I still can't stop thinking about it. The Florida Project asks us to consider those living on the margins. It dares you to find beauty and love in the midst of horrific circumstances. It demands that you see the humanity that exists in people who have been deemed "less than," and it celebrates the joy and laughter that a group of 6-year-old friends experiences on a daily basis just outside the gates of the happiest place on Earth.

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2018 Oscar Nominations Stats and Trivia Tue, 23 Jan 2018 23:00:00 -0500 b400a00a-fb13-4abc-bab1-41464094d204 Check out some interesting stats, records, and trivia coming from the 90th Academy Award nominations. By Daniel Howat

It’s been a long and hard-fought Oscar season, but we got a lot of answers today when the nominations were announced for the 90th Academy Awards. The Shape of Water led the nominations with 13, followed by Dunkirk with eight, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri with seven. There were plenty of snubs and surprises, like the lack of The Florida Project, Martin McDonagh missing Best Director, and James Franco missing Best Actor.

Still, that’s not what we’re here to talk about. As with every year, there are tons of stats and trivia that come with this fresh crop of nominees. Take a look at some interesting info about the 90th Academy Awards nominees.

Gerwig and Peele

Greta Gerwig became the fifth woman nominated for Best Director, following Lina Wertmuller (Seven Beauties), Jane Campion (The Piano), Sofia Coppola (Lost In Translation), and Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker). She’s the first of those nominated for her solo directing debut. Bigelow is the only female winner of Best Director.

Jordan Peele became the fifth black person nominated for Best Director, after John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood), Lee Daniels (Precious), Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave), and Barry Jenkins (Moonlight). No black director has ever won.

With Get Out, Peele is also the third person ever to receive nominations as producer, director, and writer for his debut film, and the first black person to do so.

Speaking of Get Out, it’s the first film released in February to be nominated for Oscars since The Silence of the Lambs. It’s also the first film nominated for Best Picture since Erin Brockovich to be released prior to the previous year’s Academy Awards ceremony.


Guillermo del Toro scored a Best Director nomination as well, making this the most diverse year of nominees ever, with only two white men nominated (Paul Thomas Anderson and Christopher Nolan).

Del Toro is the third Mexican filmmaker nominated for Best Director, following Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity), and Alejandro Iñárritu (Babel, Birdman, and The Revenant). Cuarón and Iñárritu both won (Iñárritu had previously lost for Babel, but won back-to-back in 2014 and 2015).

For The Shape of Water, Octavia Spencer scored her third Oscar nomination. She’s now tied Viola Davis’s record for the most nominations by a black actress.

Denzel Washington extended his record for the most nominations by any black actor, with eight. He’s also the first black actor nominated in two consecutive years.

With Washington and Daniel Kaluuya both scoring Best Actor nominations, this is the first year that category had two black actors nominated.

This was also the first time since Bugsy in 1991 to have two Best Supporting Actor nominees from the same film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Kumail and Emily

Kumail Nanjiani scored a Best Original Screenplay nomination, along with his wife, Emily V. Gordon, for The Big Sick. This makes Nanjiani the first Pakistani nominee for a feature film. Previously, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy received two nominations for Best Documentary Short Subject.

Netflix broke ground, scoring their first nominations outside the Documentary categories. Mudbound received four nominations: Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Song, Best Cinematography, and Best Adapted Screenplay. These are the first nominations for a film whose release was primarily through a streaming service.

Each one of Mudbound's four nominations broke a record of some kind: their Best Cinematography nominee was Rachel Morrison, who became the first woman ever nominated in that category. This was the last active category to not have a female nominee, outside of Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor.

Dee Rees scored a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for Mudbound, making her the first black woman nominated there. She’s only the second black woman to receive a writing nomination, following Suzanne de Passe (Lady Sings The Blues). She failed to receive a Best Director nomination, which would've been a first for a black woman.

Snagging Mudbound’s final two nominations, Mary J. Blige was nominated for Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Song (Mighty River). She’s now the only person nominated for both acting and songwriting Oscars in the same year.


There were a few age-related records this year as well. Timothée Chalamet scored a Best Actor nomination at 22 years-old. This makes him the third youngest Best Actor nominee ever, following Jackie Cooper (age 9 in 1931) and Mickey Rooney (age 19 in 1939). This makes him the youngest nominee in that category in 79 years.

Christopher Plummer, already the oldest winner of an acting award at age 82, became the oldest acting nominee ever at age 88. His Best Supporting Actor nomination for All The Money In The World is especially notable, since he was cast in the role on November 8th, 2017, and nominated on January 23rd, 77 days later.

Plummer would’ve been the oldest nominee in any category, but two others beat him out this year for that honor. James Ivory scored a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for Call Me By Your Name at 89 years, 7 months, and 16 days, making him the oldest ever writing nominee.

Still, Ivory was beaten out for the record of oldest Academy Award nominee overall. Agnès Varda is sixteen days older than Ivory, making her the oldest nominee for any competitive Academy Award. Her nomination for Best Documentary Feature, for her film, Faces Places, comes in the same year that Varda was given an Honorary Academy Award for her contributions to film.

John Williams continues his extraordinary streak of Academy Award nominations, receiving his 51st nomination, this time for his score for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. He extended his honor as the most nominated living individual, and second most nominated person in history. Only Walt Disney has more nominations, at 59.


Meryl Streep extends her streak as the most nominated actor of all time with her 21st nomination for The Post. How close is the next actor to her record? Jack Nicholson has 12 nominations.

Interestingly, every time Streep has been nominated for an Oscar in a Best Picture nominee, that film has won Best Picture: The Deer Hunter, Kramer vs. Kramer, and Out of Africa. Should The Post lose Best Picture, it will be a first for her.

The Post became Steven Spielberg’s 11th film to be nominated for Best Picture. That’s the most for any living director. William Wyler holds the all-time record with 13 films nominated for Best Picture.

Call Me By Your Name was the only film with an Adapted Screenplay to be nominated for Best Picture this year. Thus, in the expanded era, this is the fewest number of Adapted Best Picture nominees.

The highest grossing Best Picture nominee this year (as of January 23rd) was Dunkirk, which grossed $188,373,161.

The lowest grossing Best Picture nominee (as of January 23rd) was Phantom Thread, which grossed $6,059,449.

Wonder Woman

Though Wonder Woman scored a PGA nomination for Best Picture, it failed to receive a single Oscar nomination, becoming only the second film in the expanded era to do that. Deadpool was the first.

Logan, on the other hand, became the first live-action superhero film to ever receive a nomination in either screenplay category. It’s also the first superhero film ever nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. Not even The Dark Knight did that. The Incredibles was the first superhero film to receive a screenplay nomination but in Best Original Screenplay.

There were so many records broken this year, and there could be more with the winners. Any stats or interesting trivia we missed? Let us know! Find us on Twitter @screenerscast and give us a shout.

11 Movies you didn't see last year but deserve your attention. Sat, 20 Jan 2018 20:00:00 -0500 fcb2e5af-189a-4e3d-8506-bc47e49c34b1 Many times it can feel as if the cinematic year gives us only two kinds of films: "blockbusters" and "Oscar bait." While the truth lies somewhere in the middle, one thing is certain, many of the unique, surprising, and impactful movies don't get the attention they deserve. Fear not, The Screeners are here to give you 11 of the best movies you didn't see last year and answer the question "What should we watch tonight?"

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Brigsby Bear

Brigsby Bear:
This endlessly charming movie is an ode to loving cinema. Kyle Mooney's performance is weird and endearing. Brigsby Bear is strange, sweet, and refreshingly heartfelt. Oh, and it's hilarious too. -Daniel

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Only the Brave

Only the Brave

I confess I didn't know or remember the real story at the heart of Only the Brave, and as a result, this was the most emotional experience I had in the theatre in 2017. The ensemble cast is superb, and the movie wisely sidesteps traditional biopic moments to focus on the esprit de corps shared by these men. It's devastating and effective, and a worthy tribute to the Granite Mountain Hotshots. -Chad

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War Machine

War Machine

War Machine may not be a perfect movie, but its critical reception has done the story a disservice. Based on the real-life exposé that took down Stanley McChrystal, it features a hilariously stiff Brad Pitt and a fairly deep cast of body men, politicians, and the journalist watching it all in horror. It's a peek behind the curtain of modern warfare that'd be absurd if it weren't such a depressing reality, and it's worth a watch. -Josh

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I still have no earthly idea why Stronger isn't a real contender at the Oscars this year. Jake Gyllenhaal's performance is one of the best of the year in this movie about a man forced into heroism. It's tragic and moving, and one of the best of the year. -Daniel

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Good Time

Good Time

Don’t let his turn as a teen vampire scare you away - Robert Pattinson is out for blood with his show-stopping performance in Good Time. Good Time is a crime drama that is anything but the typical bank heist film, complete with excellent performances, a compelling plot and a highly stylized (and successful) directorial effort from co-directors Benny and Josh Safdie. -Britain

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Columbus may be the most aesthetically precise film of 2017. The exquisitely composed work of first-time director Kogonada is breathtaking. The romanticizing of architecture and order stands in contrast to the messiness of new relationships and feelings of parental distance and disappointment. While some may call Columbus cold, I found it to be a poignant examination of familial responsibility and personal calling. John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson are terrific, as is Columbus, Indiana as a backdrop for their chance encounter that turns out to be so much more. -Chad

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Ingrid Goes West

Ingrid Goes West:

Though The Post may be the timeliest movie of the year, Ingrid Goes West is a close second. Perfectly capturing and mocking Instagram culture, this film is hilarious and super cringey. Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen nail their characters. -Daniel

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It Comes at Night

It Comes at Night

Mismarketed as a horror film, It Comes at Night was praised by critics and derided by general audiences. Trey Edward Shults isn't interested in gimmicks or jump scares, instead focusing his attention on creating a palpable sense of dread that only intensifies the longer we spend with two families in a post-apocalyptic world where death is always close. I loved how the movie gave no easy answers; even more how I had to wrestle with my thoughts and emotions several days after my first viewing. If you are looking for a taut and smart film, It Comes at Night is unbearable in all the best ways. -Chad

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A truly unique take on the monster movie genre works as a perfect allegory for alcoholism. It's a weird mashup that's just funny enough to work, and it might just move you too. - Daniel

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Brads Status

Brad's Status:

It's slow and steady, but Brad's Status had a truly profound effect on me. It gets inside the head of someone who's felt like they haven't lived up to their potential. It's very specific but hit me right where I needed it. -Daniel

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Bad Genius

Bad Genius

If I told you one of the most gripping films of 2017 was based around a group of Thai high-school students attempting to cheat on an exam, you wouldn't believe me. You would be wrong. Bad Genius is a heist film where the "score" is taking tests. It will put a smile on your face and knots in your stomach as you watch Lynn (expertly played by Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying) take her scheme to an international level. With themes of teen social dynamics and class inequality just under the surface, Bad Genius has a lot to say, and you will have a great time if you'll just listen. -Chad

I, Tonya - Daniel's Review Sun, 07 Jan 2018 11:00:00 -0500 df52c274-8766-4dea-a936-cd037fe58a73 I, Tonya tells the funny and tragic story of figure skater Tonya Harding, starring Margot Robbie, Allison Janney, and Sebastian Stan. Daniel gives his review. By Daniel Howat

I, Tonya skates the fine line between tragic and funny. It’s a tricky move, a tough balancing act of tone, but the film nails it and sticks the landing.

This is no ordinary biopic. It’s brash, it’s crude, it’s hilarious, and most importantly, it’s unreliable. Tonya Harding’s story is told from multiple perspectives, featuring “interviews” from the main characters. They contradict each other, they even mock each other. The audience doesn’t know what to believe, but it doesn’t really matter.

Harding is one of the most interesting villains of the nineties. The film covers bits and pieces of her upbringing. It’s all really sad: the abusive mom leads to the abusive boyfriend. Everyone tells her she’s worth nothing off the ice. Every character is abusive or destructive in their own way. A more traditional biopic might have stuck with the heartbreaking elements alone. Thanks to strong performances and fantastic editing, we feel both the tragedy and the inherent humor in Tonya’s story.

Margot Robbie’s Tonya is gritty, devastating, and pathetic all at the same time. “That wasn’t my fault” becomes her mantra. The funny thing is...I believed it the first few times she said it. That’s the biggest strength of her performance: even when I knew I shouldn’t, I believed her. It’s because she believed herself. She believes she’s a victim.

Other characters interrupt the story and to contradict Tonya’s version of things. Her husband says he never hit her. Her mom downplays any abuse that she might’ve inflicted. Who are we to believe?

Yes, her mother is a monster. As LaVona Golden, Allison Janney is spectacularly cruel. She’s cold, heartless, and calculating. It’s a brilliantly ruthless performance.

And yes, Tonya's husband is abusive. Sebastian Stan’s performance as Jeff Gillooly is complex. He truly loves Tonya, but he treats her like dirt.

The MVP of this film, though, is Paul Walter Hauser as Shawn Eckhardt. He steals every scene he’s in as Jeff’s bumbling, delusional friend. Thinking he’s literally an international spy, he orchestrates much of “The Incident” himself. It’s almost too unbelievable until you see real footage of Eckhardt at the end. What a tremendous character, and a hilarious performance from Hauser.

Despite surrounding herself with the worst people, Tonya rises in the world of competitive figure skating. The world seems to be against her, thinking she’s not much more than white trash. But...she’s in no hurry to prove them wrong. She just wants to skate.

There’s a beautiful moment of honesty in one of Harding’s interviews. As the film is covering her early rise in the sport, she tears up. “Sorry, nobody asks me about that anymore.” It’s hard not to let that break your heart. At 23 years old she became one of the most hated people in America. Her entire life is defined by what happened in 1994. It’s undeniably tragic.

The interviews are cut with such precision that they never feel intrusive or out of place. Anytime they interrupt the story it just works, whether as a joke or to enlighten the story. There’s a refreshing disconnect from the story, as these characters reflect on their past. Harding feels fairly open. Golden doesn’t really care what you think. And Gillooly tries to defend (or deny) his every move.

Tonya had so much potential. She was incredibly talented, possibly more so than the women who routinely defeated her. What would’ve become of her had she not been surrounded by abuse and idiocy?

Harding makes bad decisions herself, of course, but the film certainly challenges the audience’s preconceived notions of her. Is she a villain? Is she a victim? Both? There’s no easy answer here. And I don’t think there should be.

You should absolutely see I, Tonya in theaters. It’s hilarious, it’s heartbreaking, but it’s always real.

Final Score: 8/10

The Greatest Showman - Daniel's Review Sat, 06 Jan 2018 09:00:00 -0500 8d9afddd-4598-48f4-bbe1-ec00c6e62eaf Daniel reviews The Greatest Showman, starring Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams. In this lavish musical, P.T. Barnum dreamed of greatness and would do anything to achieve it. He eventually creates a circus, but it's not without struggles. By Daniel Howat

P.T. Barnum is a fascinating individual. I only know a small bit of his life story, and it could make for a tremendous and expansive biopic. The Greatest Showman has no interest in telling that story. It’s merely interested in getting us from one musical number to the next. And honestly, I can’t fault them too much for that, since the music is by far the best thing about the movie.

In The Greatest Showman, Hugh Jackman stars as P.T. Barnum, the founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus. After growing up in poverty and homelessness, Barnum dreamed of making it big somehow. Failure plagued him for many years until he finally discovered how to trick people into paying for a larger than life show. Rather than explore the controversy that comes with his show, they brush over the compelling ideas to make room for the music.

“This Is Me”, “A Million Dreams”, and “Never Enough” are songs I’ll surely be listening to for the next few weeks. Pasek & Paul’s songs are full of heart and joy. They’re hopeful and exciting. They’re performed really well. You can tell that the cast had a blast together. Hugh Jackman gives a dedicated and exciting performance. He’s always a dynamic and charismatic performer and doesn’t phone it in for a second here. Michelle Williams is charming. Zac Efron and Zendaya make a nice pair. It’s a lot of fun to watch the cast singing their hearts out.

But the musical style feels completely detached from the film itself. Rather than writing music that might fit the period, they chose to write songs to emulate pop songs. But even still, the songs cover a wide variety of current genres. There’s some hip-hop, stomp-and-holler, and straight pop. With a wide variety of genres, the music lacks a cohesive feel. Most of the songs are truly great! But they feel quite odd within the context of the film.

Maybe that wouldn’t be as big of a problem if the music wasn’t intended to be actually happening within the plot of the movie. But when the crowds are singing along to their modern pop anthems, it feels pretty odd. This is especially noticeable with Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson) performs for the first time in the film. She’s a world famous “opera singer” who proceeds to, rather than sing a slightly operatic track, sing a pop ballad. It was very weird.

That was just one of the oddities in this film, but there are plenty of others. Like the character of Charles Stratton, played by Sam Humphrey. His voice was completely (and poorly) dubbed over. He was enhanced with CGI lips to match the dub. It felt very random and was distracting everytime he was on screen.

I kept wishing throughout the movie that the story was even half as interesting as the music. There are moments when it seemed like they might be starting down an intriguing path, but they would soon revert back to musical tropes. For instance, in a scene when Barnum might finally be accepted by the New York elite, he shuns the “freaks” that he’s been fighting for. He pushes them out the door and slams it in their face. Rather than having to reconcile for this terrible behavior, they never address that moment again. Bland writing kept me counting the minutes until the next musical number.

It’s this inconsistency that plagues The Greatest Showman throughout. I noticed twice where it sounded as though the actors were singing live. Those were the best, most authentic moments in the film. But, as happened a lot here, they did away with it quickly and dubbed the rest of their tracks, not always very well. There was precious little authenticity in the movie, and it left me cold.

There are far worse films than this. Though it couldn’t quite reach the heights it wanted to, The Greatest Showman still has those excellent tracks to keep you invested. Magnetic performers are often fun to watch. Still, a great soundtrack doesn’t necessarily make a great film. “The Greatest Show” this was not.

Make sure you listen to the soundtrack for the movie ASAP. But should you see it in theaters? Probably not. Rent it if you like musicals.

Final Rating: 5/10

The Screeners 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2018 Thu, 04 Jan 2018 17:00:00 -0500 0ef3c0f7-d057-4b4e-997c-a34a7d25b87c The Screeners list their 10 most anticipated films of 2018. As the Screeners close the books on a great year in cinema, we turn our attention to 2018. With a slew of sequels and comic book films on the way, finding great theatrical experiences can be difficult. To help you through this daunting task, we asked each Screener to list their top 2 most anticipated movies of the year. Now, no list is perfect, so please send your angry emails to Josh, and be sure to list your most anticipated films in the comments below.


Black Panther

We still can't believe we live in a world where T’Challa, the Black Panther, ruler and protector of the nation of Wakanda, has his own movie. And what a movie this appears to be. With Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station and Creed) at the helm, we expect not only dazzling visuals and action, but an emotional center often missing from comic adaptations.

Release Date: February 16

First Man

It's no surprise that Daniel's most anticipated film comes from the creator of La La Land. For his third feature, Damien Chazelle steps away from music and into the world of biopics. With Neal Armstrong's life as the core story and a cast that includes Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jon Bernthal, Jason Clarke, and Kyle Chandler, consider us intrigued as well.

Release Date: October 12


Ready Player One

Chris was so excited about Spielberg's take on Ernest Cline's pop culture masterwork, he gave BOTH of his 2018 picks to one film. His exact words were "nothing else matters." With a life and death chase in a Matrix-like "Oasis", and more IP's than we can count, he may just be right.

Release Date: March 30



12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen turns his attention to genre fare with a heist-thriller set in contemporary Chicago. When four men die in a job gone wrong, their widows must complete the heist to repay the debt left behind by their dead husbands' criminal activities. With a cast including Viola Davis, Colin Farrell, Liam Neeson, and Jon Bernthal, from a script co-written by McQueen and Gone Girl author Gillan Flynn, we expect a tight, twisty, and exciting story.

Release Date: November 16

Creed 2

Creed exceeded expectations and became a commercial and critical hit in 2016. All of the key players return (with Ryan Coogler moving into an Executive Producer role), working from a script by Luke Cage showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker. Not much is known about the story, but we expect young Creed will find his way into the path of Drago or his children. In either case, our hopes remain high that Creed 2 can live up to the standard set by the original.

Release Date: TBA

Hold the Dark

Since Chris only used one of his picks, Chad felt obligated to add a third (we had to get the list to 10, after all). Not many directors can boast a back to back, one-two punch of films as strong as Jeremy Saulnier. With Blue Ruin and Green Room he has firmly established his style as a master of suspense and tone management. Hold the Dark is an Alaskan murder mystery adapted from a book by William Giraldi. Whatever Saulnier has in store, we can already feel our palms getting sweaty.

Release Date: TBA


A Wrinkle in Time

We are excited to see ANYTHING directed by Ava DuVernay. But an adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s beloved 1962 children’s book with a cast including Chris Pine, Mindy Kaling, Reese Witherspoon, and Oprah Winfrey? Count. Us. In.

Release Date: March 9

Red Sparrow

Jennifer Lawrence gets into the spy game with this film adaptation of Jason Matthews' 2013 novel. Set as the potential start of a new franchise, we are hopeful Francis Lawrence can bring equal amounts brain and brawn to this spy vs. spy thriller.

Release Date: March 2


Molly's Game

Yeah, we know that Molly's Game is out already, but we were so excited that Josh was "anticipating" a film that we couldn't bring ourselves to take it off of the list. Thankfully, Aaron Sorkin seems to have delivered a strong directorial debut featuring stellar performances and razor sharp dialogue.

Release Date: December 25, 2017 (wide January 4, 2018)


Josh's pick of a comic book film can only mean one of two things:

  1. He has had a MAJOR change of heart as it relates to all things "comic blockbuster".
  2. He didn't have time to read the list of 2018 theatrical releases and picked the first thing he saw.

We leave it to you to decide which timeline is real, but either way, Venom may actually be good. With a cast featuring Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, and Jenny Slate, there is (at least) the potential of something better than the usual comic book fare.

Release Date: October 5


Molly's Game - Daniel's Review Tue, 02 Jan 2018 11:00:00 -0500 8461ed6d-ac31-41f7-9192-4542f078e8b3 Daniel reviews Aaron Sorkin's directorial debut, Molly's Game. Starring Jessica Chastain, the movie follows Molly Bloom, skier-turned-poker entrepreneur, running high stakes poker games for the rich and famous. By Daniel Howat

Equal parts biopic, poker film, and cautionary tale, with plenty of glamour mixed in, Molly’s Game deals a winning hand.

Molly Bloom’s wild story is a perfect match for Aaron Sorkin’s lightning-fast dialogue and trademark wit. It’s a larger than life, shocking tale - so shocking that she can’t even reveal the details to begging publishers.

Opening with a frenetic and tragic ski run, we see the life that Molly thought she was meant for. Losing out on her champion potential, she moves to LA to try and figure out her life. While working at a bar she meets Dean, who hires her as his assistant. Quickly he gives her control of his high stakes poker game. He’s got some rich friends, and plenty of famous ones too.

Before long, Molly’s shows her determination and skill. The film does a great job at showing how dedicated she was to be the best at what she does. We see nothing about any life Molly may have had outside of the game, presumably because no such thing existed. She eventually becomes too good to be stuck underneath Dean and starts her own game, taking his high rollers with her.

The film is told largely in three intercut stories: Molly as a teen, Molly as a poker entrepreneur, and Molly as a defendant. These three eras are blended together beautifully, with each story revealing important truths about past, present, and future Molly. Jessica Chastain is electric and assured in the role, wielding bravado when she’s building her gambling reputation, and vulnerability when she’s scraping her life back together.

Molly’s Game benefits from an endlessly interesting story. The glamour and intrigue, the high profile actors, athletes, and businessmen dropping millions in a night. It’s fascinating watching Molly build her empire. It’s also fascinating watching her lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba) try to pull the story out of her. They make a great pair, going back and forth with their “Sorkian” one-liners.

There’s a slew of other fantastic supporting players here as well. Chris O’Dowd as the sad drunk. Joe Kerry as the risky trust-fund kid. Brian d’Arcy James as the hilarious “Bad Brad”. And Michael Cera is surprisingly intimidating as the famous “Player X”. Molly’s in no hurry to give almost any real names, but I was filled with curiosity with each new character.

In his directorial debut, Sorkin handles the breakneck pace perfectly, never letting the audience fall behind as she’s rising to the top of the poker world. He holds us in the palm of his hand as we traverse the story of Molly’s life. Naturally, it’s easier to have more fun watching Molly’s rise than her downfall. That’s where we start to really feel the film’s long runtime. The pace slows down as Molly reconciles the consequences of her game, her fear of the future, and her issues with her dad. Some of these moments work, and some can be a little clunky.

The story often plays like a cautionary tale, showing us how the game could ruin lives and destroy futures. Still, the “caution” in the tale is a little outweighed by the sheer glamour of the lifestyle. It’s an inherently weird blend, showing how Molly raked in the money and brushed elbows with the rich and famous, but it’s a dangerous way to get there.

This film is gripping and absorbing. Molly’s a captivating subject, and Chastain does a wonderful job of showing all of her layers. Sorkin shows us the humanity in each and every character, never letting us forget that this really happened. It may be a crazy story, but it’s never unbelievable.

Molly's Game is a highly enjoyable biopic with fantastic performances. This is certainly worth seeing in theaters.

Final Rating: 8/10

The Rushes: Weekly News Roundup - Dec. 2nd, 2017 Sat, 02 Dec 2017 21:00:00 -0500 04ee68fc-9d66-4caa-9c27-2b449f3ce0e4 Check out the biggest movies news of the week! Welcome to the first installment of The Rushes: Weekly News Roundup! We’ll give you the top ten news stories in the movie world from the past week, along with a little commentary. Feel free to send suggestions to!

James Franco

James Franco Developing Shel Silverstein Biopic

In one of the more unexpected stories of the week, a biopic about renowned children’s author Shel Silverstein will be directed by star James Franco. The film will be an adaptation of Lisa Rogak’s book “A Boy Named Shel”. While Franco might not have been the first person to come to mind for this project, it’s intriguing. He’s getting raves (and Oscar buzz) for his latest biopic, The Disaster Artist. If he can do it for Tommy Wiseau, why not Silverstein?

Production Halts on Bryan Singer’s Queen Biopic

Bryan Singer’s Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody may be in trouble, as production was suddenly halted this week. Production on the movie is apparently very close to completion, but rumor has it that Singer hadn’t been showing up to set. A statement from his reps say there is “a personal health matter” preventing him from the filming. Still, with new sexual assault allegations taking down many men in Hollywood, decades of rumors about Singer may be catching up to him. It’s too bad that the film, starring Rami Malek, may get caught up in the shuffle. I’ve been looking forward to this movie for some time.

Quentin Tarantino’s Manson Film Release Date

Tarantino’s highly anticipated ninth film, currently untitled, will come to theaters on August 9th, 2019. The film will in some way involve the Manson murders, though the actual plot is still under wraps. That release date isn’t exactly random: it marks the 50th anniversary of Sharon Tate’s murder. With actors like Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Cruise, and Margot Robbie circling the project, this is shaping up to be an incredible film.

Harley Quinn

Margot Robbie Working on Third Harley Quinn Spinoff

While promoting her new movie I, Tonya, Margot Robbie revealed that she’s developing a “totally separate” Harley Quinn spinoff movie. This is significant because it’s technically the fifth announced Harley Quinn movie in development. Yes, the fifth: A Harley Quinn solo film, a Harley Quinn & Joker film, Gotham City Sirens, Birds of Prey, and of course Suicide Squad 2. There are a staggering 22 DC movies that have been announced as in development, so you can go ahead and assume most of them will never actually happen.

David S. Goyer to Direct Masters of The Universe

The reboot of Masters of The Universe has been in development for years, but may finally be getting off the ground again. David S. Goyer, the screenwriter behind Batman Begins and Man of Steel, as well as director of Blade: Trinity, will helm the new film. McG had most recently linked to the adaptation but left the project in April.

Hellboy Gets January 2019 Release Date

The Hellboy reboot will hit theaters on January 11, 2019. Starring David Harbour as the title character, this movie is looking to be grittier and darker than Guillermo del Toro’s franchise, as they’re aiming for an R-rating. While January can often be a dumping ground for bad movies, since they’ve set this date so far in advance, it must be a strategic move.

Disney’s Mulan Casts Lead Role

While the new Lion King has been getting attention for its high profile casting, the new live-action Mulan has set their leading lady: Chinese actress Liu Yifei. Also known as Crystal Liu, Yifei is one of China’s biggest stars. Niki Caro is directing the adaptation. No word yet on if Mushu will be playing a role, much to my chagrin.

Matthew Vaughn Circling New Spec Script

The mysterious spec script Courage may be getting a strong director: Matthew Vaughn. Though we don’t have any real details on the film, written by Karl Gajdusek, writer and producer of Stranger Things, it’s described as “an epic action sci-fi drama in the vein of Inception or Edge of Tomorrow.” Anything directed by Matthew Vaughn is worth keeping an eye on, especially something this epic.

Kevin Spacey and Christopher Plummer

All The Money In The World Completes Reshoots

In a staggering turnaround, Ridley Scott has already completed reshoots on his upcoming film All The Money In The World Completes Reshoots to replace Kevin Spacey, embattled with sexual assault allegations, with Christopher Plummer. It’s astonishing how quickly this has all happened. Reshoots were first announced on Nov. 8th, and a new TV spot with Plummer appeared on Nov. 29th. According to Scott, the film is still set for its Dec. 22nd release date, with press screenings happening even sooner.

Redmayne and Jones to Pair For The Aeronauts

The Theory of Everything co-stars Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones will team up yet again for The Aeronauts. This action adventure film will tell the story of “two 19th century hot air balloonists.” Directed by Tom Harper, this sounds like it could be a unique, fun movie. I absolutely loved Redmayne and Jones in Theory of Everything, so I’m in for this one.

Which projects are you excited for? Let us know on Twitter (@screenerscast), and send us stories for next week’s Rushes!